NFL Referees Association denounces Roy Ellison suspension


The NFL has suspended umpire Roy Ellison for one game for using abusive language toward Washington offensive lineman Trent Williams on Sunday, and the NFL Referees Association is not happy about it.

In a statement released Friday evening, the NFLRA angrily denounced the decision and accused Williams of using abusive language and a racial slur toward Ellison.

“Roy Ellison is an accomplished 11 year veteran who is highly respected,” Michael Arnold, the NFLRA’s legal counsel, said in a statement. “The NFL imposed its judgment upon him without consideration of all the facts. The decision was arbitrary and unjustified and will be challenged with an immediate grievance.”

According to the NFLRA, what set Ellison off on Sunday was that Williams called him the N-word and the F-word. Williams has denied calling Ellison the N-word. Ellison and Williams are both African-American.

NFLRA Executive Director Jim Quirk said the league subjects the officials to hostility, and the officials are tired of it.

“The NFL’s decision to suspend Mr. Ellison creates a double standard for what is acceptable on field conduct,” Quirk said. “The League insists that officials are held to a ‘high standard’ but others involved in the game are held to no standard. Apparently the NFL accepts and condones a culture where players, coaches and teams can use racial slurs and profanity toward each other and at Officials. Music played in locker rooms and in the stadiums before games include racial slurs (including the N-word) and references to sexual violence with impunity. These types of cheap slurs and racial banter on the field often lead to angry and emotional responses which can result in fighting and injury. This is completely contrary to the atmosphere of sportsmanship and respect the League says should exist in the game.”

The officials are unhappy, but NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has the authority to resolve Ellison’s appeal. Which makes this statement from the officials unlikely to get the result they seek, of Ellison back on the field on Sunday.

56 responses to “NFL Referees Association denounces Roy Ellison suspension

  1. Oh quit crying. Ellison probably listens to the same music just like I do. And is the the same NFL we’re talking about? Because my understanding is that Refs can say whatever they want to players, make calls however they want, run off the field without explaining anything, and if a player or coach says anything back it’s a penalty, ejection, and a heavy fine. That’s the REAL double standard.

  2. Just wait. We’re going to see the refs start throwing flags for every use of “foul language” as unsportsmanlike conduct just to prove a point.

    Ellison shouldn’t have joined the fray, but what’s done is done. Now we’ll find out how much the refs want to protest this decision.

  3. The NFLRA acts as if refs have no power. Start calling unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. Abuse the officials get a flag. Not a difficult call.

  4. What the League, the NFLPA, and the NFLRA SHOULD have done was let cooler heads prevail. Then bring these two guys together, sit them down, and let them have a respectful ADULT conversation.

    Let them talk about what happened, why it happened, and how ALL parties could do things differently going forward. Let them talk without fear of reprisal or suspension.

    Instead we have now have a bigger mess. The league is in the middle with both sides po’d at the league. The NFLRA could very well decide to flex their in-game right to throw a flag and eject a player for saying something offensive in the heat of the moment. That could easily start a cycle of continue “issues” between players and refs which would extremely damaging to the game we all love.

    There is still time Mr. Goodell. Call them into your office for Monday morning and SIT them down. In the meantime, suspend the suspension until after they’ve discussed it like adults. This “Command, control, fine and suspend” mentality of the league needs to stop. Suspensions should only be used in extreme cases or when repeat offenders offend again and again.


  5. NFLRA? These part-time overpaid amateurs have a union.. of course! And of course they’re going to spout off when one of their miscreants gets slapped. Nothing to see here, drive through.

  6. Not sure about whatever happened to “being the better man”.
    If Roy Ellison had the ability to call a personal foul he should have.
    If he did not he should have walked away.

  7. Real nice statement! Totally lacks any kind of leadership or accountability! If you can’t see that your officiating staff needs to be held to the highest standard then you don’t belong here.

    So basically your saying everyone else does it so why can’t we…. I’m embarrassed for you.

  8. Pro sports officials are supposed to have the hide of an armadillo in terms of thick skin. While MLB umpires routinely forget this and get involved in sometimes-entertaining shouting matches with managers, NBA refs just “T” you, NHL refs send you to the box, and NFL officials usually just ignore players and coaches when they start yelling.

    From what’s been presented, Ellison crossed a line and he’s being disciplined for it. Game officials are not supposed to get personal. And if the NFLRA doesn’t like it, they can re-read the CBA they signed last year which supposedly included some transparency about matters like this.

  9. Remember too that Ellison has been already been sat down by the head of the NFL refs and reprimanded for this type of stuff. Repeat offender, etc. Time to sit one out, reflect on how he has one of the best jobs in the world, and learn to chill.

  10. The NFLRA can complain all they want until theyre blue in the face. They wont get a shred of sympathy from the fans of this sport who are SICK AND TIRED of the blatant errors in their officiating which clearly seems to get worse literally week after week. DO YOUR JOBS, OFFICIALS!!!

  11. You would have to try being an official once before you speak. I have officiated Division2, Jr. College and High School football and you would not believe the treatment that officials get……even from high school snots ! If we threw a flag everytime a racial slur, swear word, demeaning statements about your wife, sister, mother, etc. were yelled, a game would never get finished. Players and coaches “know it’s all about them” and they have no boundaries. You may not see it on TV, but I’ve had coaches who didn’t like a call, instruct their player to purposely run me over. I understand being a homer, but take a breath and try to have some sense of objectivity in your comments. NFL players get unlimited passes before they are ever fined or suspended and even then they appeal and get off the hook. I would love to see what some of you would say (or do) if a player described in no uncertain terms what they were going to do to your wife……..this goes on the entire game sometimes.

  12. As a African American male I’m really getting tired of this. First of all let’s deal with the elephant in the room. There are people that are racist in America. White, black, hispanic, so forth and so on. It’s just the reality of the Nation we live in. But, I think that we all should take a step back a qualify what a racist is. Someone using the “N” word rather white, hispanic or some other nationality doesn’t make the user of the word a racist. A few monts ago I was at my sister’s house. My sixteen year old neice had some friends over. It was a diverse group including two white teenage girls and a hispanic and two other blacks. I was in the kitchen and I heard someone use the “N” word. I was about to go into the living room but I waited a few moments. To my surprise no one in the room batted an eye. After the group left I ask my neice about the incident. She said to me Uncle that’s not there issue its ours. The “N” word has to be considered in the context the user is using the word. The reason I’m saying this is that it appears to me that word as become a buzz word for identifying someone as a racist. I find it more offensive that it was necessary to use color in the story period. Do I believe the Trent Williams use the “N” word yes, does that justify what the response of the ref was no. In either case can we just give it a rest already with stories like this and just talk football. I’m a Saints fan and after last year I’d would just love to talk about the beat down we’re about to give the Seahawks in thier house come next Monday night.

  13. So a little bit more of the truth comes out. There’s no doubt the refs get verbally abused by the players and coaches and now it sounds like it’s getting worse. The NFL needs to get this under control before something truly awful happens on the field.

  14. Its part of an official’s job to have thick skin, period. 99% of the other officials are able to take it in stride, why couldnt Ellison? This is extremely rare for refs to lose it like Ellison did. If they cant be the better man, and keep quiet, then get in a different profession. Ellison got what he deserved and based on reports from Mike Pereria former head of officiating, Ellison has been a repeat offender.

  15. Is there an over/under on how many penalties Trent Williams gets rest of the year? I am taking the over

  16. “Ellison and Williams are both African-American.”

    Are there’s the problem… why does that matter? If the word is offensive, it shoud be banned by everyone.

    Until double standards… aka “Separate but Equal” … go away, we’ll never make progress.

  17. “Apparently the NFL accepts and condones a culture where players, coaches and teams can use racial slurs and profanity toward each other and at Officials. Music played in locker rooms and in the stadiums before games include racial slurs (including the N-word) and references to sexual violence with impunity. These types of cheap slurs and racial banter on the field often lead to angry and emotional responses which can result in fighting and injury. This is completely contrary to the atmosphere of sportsmanship and respect the League says should exist in the game.”

    And with that whiny statement every Referee represented by the NFLRA (all of them) just admitted to not doing their job on the field. It is your job to make sure the atmosphere of sportsmanship and respect on the field stays at an appropriate level. Players arent suppose to be allowed to disrespect each other on the field without incurring a 15 yard penalty.

    If you guys were actually doing your job and penalizing players for their offensive language on the field then they would stop doing it. Just like any other rule the only way you get it to stop is by enforcing it. That falls to you the referees.

    You know why horse collar tackles stopped? They stopped because you guys started throwing the flag. Yea maybe it happens 2 or 3 times a week across the entire league but that is nothing compared to what use to be a 2 or 3 times a game occurrence. Same thing would happen in this situation too.

    You know why it doesn’t happen in baseball, because the umps dont let it slide. Its one and done. So if you quit whining and do your job you wont have to hear it anymore.

  18. I often wish I could read read lips, because the refs are getting yelled at 80% of the game. I always wonder if the refs talk back or just let it slide off there back.

  19. These refs are like a guy who stays at home and lays on the couch everyday and then gets mad at the government when the eviction notice comes because he didnt pay his rent.

    If you go to work and do your job you wont need the gov. to give you money to stop you from being evicted because you would have already payed the bill.

    Its the refs job to keep the atmosphere of respect on the field at an acceptable level. If you dont like whats going on on the field dont look at the commissioner to fix he already gave you the tools to do it your self.

    Ill give you a hint its yellow with a little bit of sand held in place by a rubber band. Figure it out.

  20. Football? Who won? How? Don’t care to much about trash talking. Nothing new, it’s happen for years.

    This commissioner needs to be changed. His policies, allowed by quite a few owners, are killing this golden goose.

    One other point, it’s true, the ‘music’ being blasted at NFL games really terrible.

  21. Why is there a Referees Association? Is it like a union? Ridiculous.. The NFL already lets these dead beats suck at their job. They can make the worst call in the league and the NFL will say “it was the right call” and then back it up with a suspension.

  22. The problem at the core of this, is that the zebras live in an ivory tower. The league seldom challenges them on their calls, the players can’t, and the public are forced to choke on their bad decisions. It is a more recent phenom that their calls are changing the outcomes of games, or is it? There is just entirely too much latitude given to men, who make too many mistakes during the course of their on-field tenures.

    This current nonsensical “he said/he said” drama is actually musical theater compared to many incidents of more lasting import in the past. For grown men to bicker openly about being called “bad words”, is both comical and sad. Is there a soul alive in America, who actually believes that the common language on a pro football field is anything, but coarse? I remember listening once to a QB, who had been famous as a college player, prior to his pro career, jawing with a line judge, and his end of the conversation was almost all “bleeps”.

    Neither player or umpire should have ever said a word about this incident to anyone else, nor should either have been “upset” about it. It isn’t the kind of complaint that anyone needs to hear. The umpire should just be happy that the player he swore at, wasn’t Jonathan Martin.

  23. Some of these refs are horrible anyway. Glad he got suspended but I feel sorry when he comes back.
    The people involved are probably going to get some calls against them.
    I thought we were only interested in the “bad ” word in the Dolphins camp, maybe just calm down now and figure that the refs use it too!!!

  24. I agree with the post above about way too much being made out of the “N” word these days. Williams and Ellison use it against each other in a derogatory manner and it’s not a huge deal. Richie incognito uses the word and he is labeled as a racist and public enemy #1. If the word is off limits please make sure it’s off limits for everyone.

  25. As an official of lower level football, I can assure you that officials of Skin’s games will not go out of their way to exaggerate penalties on Williams, but they will keep one eye on him at all times and anything illegal he does will be flagged. So is not calling bogus penalties but probably flagging him more for legit penalties wrong? In other words, there will be no more “benefit of the doubt” for Williams and I promise you we will hear from him how the refs are “signaling him out” but he will get no sympathy from me. I doubt Shannahan was crazy about him making an issue out of something he started as it will hurt the team as a whole.

  26. Since they’ve been trying to rename the Skins for PC purposes for some time now they can now call them the ‘Washington every call goes against them for the rest of the season’ Also fans should get ready to hear ” holding…number 71 offense…”on pretty much every play,including some when the guy isn’t on the field.

  27. It will be the new drinking game,
    Take a shot every time you hear,
    10 yards, holding offense # 71.

    and he has it comeing

  28. Another Dolphins type situation with Martin. Clearly the NFL has a huge problems with going from a closed door sport where all issues where handled in house and hush hush to being subject to laws governing labor and labor forces and what is considered respectful in a workplace environment. With the advent of social media, the rise in popularity of the sport of football and scrutiny that goes a long with it has drawn intense scrutiny from fans and the media to the NFL. From the huge concussion settlement to players having 24/7 access to express their opinions to fans and finally the growing pains of players who play a very violent sport that they just can’t do what they want to their co-players, referees and fans. The NFL is changing and those who can’t hit below the head, who don’t respect their fellow players and who verbally assault the referees are the ones who should be punished not the Daryl Stingleys, the Jonathan Martins and Roy Ellisons.

  29. The NFL. Is a business. In the business world the N word gets you fired. It’s use should not be tolerated under any circumstances even amongst black players talking slang to each other. That gets you fired in the corporate world as well. After the game Williams came across like the one who was persecuted when in fact he was instigator.

  30. Times like these I am reminded of the great service this site performed in support of refs like Williams during their labor dispute the game and the league have truly benefitted from the wisdom of the media

  31. @hor2012:

    Not so sure I would characterize this particular incident with the one example you’ve given, when none other than Charles Barkley has said that ” other races besides whites can be “racist.”

    So now apparently we have Blacks calling other Blacks the “N” word, and the fact that the referee has been in the league 11 years according to the NLFRA is supposed to provide some credible valence over a 4th-year lineman?

    Ellison should simply sit out his one-game suspension and keep his mouth shut.

  32. jetsjetsjetsnow says: Nov 22, 2013 7:59 PM

    Real nice statement! Totally lacks any kind of leadership or accountability! If you can’t see that your officiating staff needs to be held to the highest standard then you don’t belong here.

    So basically your saying everyone else does it so why can’t we…. I’m embarrassed for you.


    I look at it a different way. They know they won’t win any appeal. They are appealing to the same guy that made the decision.

    What it is, IMO, is a clear warning from the officials that they are going to tell their members to have a “zero tolerance” as far as foul language directed towards them on the field. Believe me, this will not go unnoticed if it happens. There will be 20 unsportsmanlike penalties a game

    In the long run, I see their point. If we are all grown men, and we should treat each other with respect as such, why do players get to talk anyway they want? I for one can’t remember single player being ejected for using profanity towards a ref. Maybe for touching them, but that’s it

    Expect a lot of yellow laundry this week all over the league

  33. The greater concern is the integrity of the game and the officiating. If the appearance of referee bias (which some fans think is already there) creeps into games, then that threatens the NFL itself. Indeed, fans want referees to call games fairly, consistently, and accurately; otherwise, the refs become those on par with refs in “professional” wrestling.

    It is bad enough when things like the Calvin Johnson TD catch (to everyone in the world except Roger Goodell and the three blind mice) against Chicago happens and fans feel cheated. The perception that refs are biased toward a player or team would hurt the sport and cause a serious loss of viewership.

  34. I suspect that there will be a huge spike in the number of “Unsportsmanlike Conduct Flags” across the NFL this week.

  35. I love it that they suspend a referee for using bad language but will refuse to hold players and coaches to the same high standard. You have to claw and scratch to get a one game suspension for a player and that is after multiple offenses on and off the field. A referee drops an F bomb and you suspend him for a game even though he is subjected to the same foul language from players/coaches throughout the game?

    This doesn’t sound very well thought out.

  36. badmoonrison says: Nov 22, 2013 8:46 PM

    Its part of an official’s job to have thick skin, period. 99% of the other officials are able to take it in stride, why couldnt Ellison?

    I think this is one of those times Trent Williams should have kept his mouth shut. After what transpired in Miami everyone is questioning if the NFL creates a hostile work environment. To say certain employees are expected to be subjected to verbal abuse and if they respond in the same fashion they will be suspended does not sound very legitimate. It is one of those old time unwritten rules. Since the majority of the officials do go along with this I think Williams should have thought twice about shedding light on this stuff as a whole because it isn’t going to stop with one official being suspended. We both know that. Now everything said on the field will be scrutinized.

  37. Mentioning low brow aspects of certain “cultures” usually qualifies as hate speech. I’m stunned the NFLRA statement actually does so.

  38. Did he do something really offensive and call him a Redskin? Redskins are a joke they are 3-7 and crying because someone called them a bad name YET they continue to slur native americans every day. FAIL!

  39. As a former ref I can say this:

    A ref has NO BUSINESS saying even a word to a player. If a player is using is abusing an official, THROW THE FLAG. Thats it. That flag is stronger than any words that can be spoken.

    That being said, I dont expect more penalties on the Skins during play. I guarantee, if ANYONE on that team says anything negative towards the ref? Flags will fly from everywhere

  40. I officiated high school and college hockey, but officiating most sports have all of the same problems.

    I started as a teenager and one of the first things I learned was not to take crap from players, especially since I was always a younger official. Once you let players start talking crap to you, you lose all respect, authority, and therefore lose control of the game.

    So I did as I was told and pretty quickly players and coaches knew to behave themselves when I was working their games. This all led to much smoother games and incidents between teams and myself.

    On the other hand, I’ve done games with guys that have been working a lot longer than me let players and coaches run their mouths and show them up. After the game, they would run to the commissioner or Head of Officials and complain, asking why nothing is being done about these players. The first question was always, “Did you assess a penalty?” The officials would argue, “No, but still…,” and at that point it was already their own fault.

    Officials cannot let penalties go, whether directed toward them or the other team, then arbitrarily decide to get upset or call penalties later in the game. Penalize early to take control or let them vent, but they have to be consistent.

    So there’s my long rant, from an official’s perspective, that pretty much echoes what a lot of you are already saying.

  41. Oh my God, the NFL disciplined a referee. When was the last time this happened? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Frankly, what is this gonna do. NFL referee is a part time gig. Most of them have very lucrative careers away from the NFL. You think Roy Ellison will miss his game check? Nuh-Uh! The NFL desperately needs full time refs who dedicate there year round time to knowing and recognizing on field infractions at NFL speeds. And to a full time ref, loosing a game check is an actual punishment. There is no real way to punish NFL referees and therefore there is no real way to guarantee that officials aren’t biased. Hell, the military kicks out soldiers who win or inherit large fortunes for exactly this reason. If you can’t punish them, you can’t control them and the NFL has no control over there refs. I still think every Tuesday there should be an nfl press conference were every ref apologizes for and acknowledges every call the film reveals they botched.

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