The NFL’s hope was that the replacement refs wouldn’t be so spectacularly bad as to attract much notice, so they could continue to negotiate from a position of strength.
That ship has sailed.
Not only did the league’s drama with its officials lead the news on the Today show on Tuesday and Wednesday, it’s reached the point where stars of other sports are chiming in.
“It’s not quite working,” NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. said Tuesday of the replacement refs, via Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer. “I think some action needs to be taken to shore up an agreement with the refs to where we can bring them back.
“This season has a little asterisk next to it. It’s kind of stained in a way that’s irreparable. It’s frustrating to see this happen because there’s a lot of football fans out there that would rather things be different.”
Earnhardt’s the most popular driver in a sport which traditionally changes rules on the spot as it suits them (which makes NASCAR kind of like replacement refs). The old joke in NASCAR circles is that the rule book is written on an Etch-a-Sketch hidden at their headquarters.
But he also has the same kind populist appeal that the league’s long counted on. He’s a big Redskins fan, once starred in a jeans commercial with Brett Favre, and has a name that resonates in certain corners of the country.
It’s not to say if you’ve lost Dale Earnhardt Jr. you’ve lost the lockout, but the fact that morning show anchors and race car drivers are talking about this instead of the Soccer Mom Madam or gas mileage or tire compounds or whatever is not helping the league’s case.