NFL Referees Association at odds with league office over calls


The NFL Referees Association, which represents the on-field officials, is hitting back at the league after two high-profile calls were described as incorrect by the league office.

According to the Referees Association, both of the two calls in question — an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Hussain Abdullah for sliding to the ground in prayer after a touchdown, and a hit on Philadelphia’s Nick Foles by Washington’s Chris Baker — were graded as correct by the officiating department. Those grades were given despite the league office announcing publicly, in both cases, that the calls were wrong.

“In the last two weeks, two penalties that were called in games that drew national attention were publicly announced to be in error by the League office, however the Officiating Department later graded the calls as correct. This has caused confusion for NFL officials as to what the League does and doesn’t want called,” the Referees Association said in a statement.

The flag on Baker, which precipitated a fracas on the field, was criticized by NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent, who said, “Baker didn’t do anything wrong with that hit.” But the Referees Association says the official who threw that flag was told the next day that he got the call right.

The flag on Abdullah, a Muslim, had the potential to become a major controversy about religious discrimination in the NFL, as Christian players routinely pray in the end zone without getting flagged. The NFL quickly released a statement saying Abdullah should not have been flagged for his end zone prayer, as players are permitted to make religious expressions after scoring touchdowns. But the Referees Association says Abdullah was correctly flagged for sliding onto his knees, not for praying.

“The player was flagged, correctly, for the slide on his knees in the end zone, not for going to the ground in a prayerful gesture,” said former ref Scott Green in the Referees Association’s statement. “On field officials are aware of the prayer provision and respect the right of players of all faiths to express themselves.”

If the league office is telling the officials that they got a call right, while telling players, coaches and the public that the call was wrong, that’s a big problem. The NFL needs to clear this up.

38 responses to “NFL Referees Association at odds with league office over calls

  1. NFL is losing credibility. All the changes in emphasis has got to stop,it is have negative effect on the product.

  2. Too many objective rules. Who cares about TD celebrations? They are competitive athletes who are excited about scoring. Stop with all the stupid rules…this is why there is no clarity on how it should be ruled, they are too many objective rules.

  3. The NFLRA is right about the prayer, at least. I don’t think the referee was understanding that quickly that he was going into a muslim prayer – that just doesn’t ever happen in the NFL so I can understand him throwing the flag as soon as he saw the slide. The NFL, in its haste not to look like they were discriminating, threw the refs under the bus. Apparently there’s no room for nuance in press releases statements, and they have to be made with the assumption that everyone reading them is a child.

  4. Is the league trying to self-destruct? The repetitive bungling of a series of football and non-football related issues is leaving the league looking like the 3 Stooges.

    Say one thing and do another seems to be the only consistency found in the league this fall.

  5. there should be more accountability while you are on the subject….. refs should be docked money or games played etc if they consistently blow calls or ruin games.

  6. Isn’t Goodell the commissioner? Once again he is doing a stellar job. Way to go Roger, perhaps you should have taken a little time before rushing to judgment. Oh but what do I or anybody other than you know.

  7. “On field officials are aware of the prayer provision and respect the right of players of all faiths to express themselves.”
    Waiting for the first guy to claim to be a Rastafarian and light up a joint in the end zone in “prayer”.

  8. The language of the rulebook is very confusing in a lot of places and there are lots of incidents that it looks like the league has made the wrong call in accordance with their own rules. A lot of the language is ambiguous and it’s no surprise that different people are going to formulate different opinions when trying to understand the definitions of the language and logically process what that means to them. And there are many plays that appear to be called wrong by the referees that don’t gain huge attention and are never publicly scrutinized. Every single week there are a number of things that happen that don’t make sense that never get reconciled. For me it’s a rarity that I watch a football game and don’t find at least one thing that I thought the referees or the league got wrong, and in many cases it’s a lot of things.

    If you don’t have perfectly clear rules/processes, then disagreement can arise between two separate and reasonably intelligent parties.

  9. So you’re saying the NFL is inconsistent and says whatever is best for PR, irrespective of the facts or what is correct? What a shock and surprise!

  10. People need to lighten up on the knee-jerk reaction about the call on Abdullah. A player can NOT go to their knees in a celebration.. and he SLID into the endzone WELL before “going to his knees” in prayer, and depending on the ref’s position may not have even SEEN that he was “praying” at the end. Probably threw it as soon as he saw the slide.

    If he wants to avoid the penalty in the future.. do the prayer gesture AFTER you are in the end zone and make it obvious, and don’t slide 10 feet before you get there.

    WAY too much political correctness these days…

  11. It’s almost like the NFL has a huge officiating problem that wasn’t addressed although after the strike we were told that these guys were SO MUCH better than the replacements.

  12. This isn’t on the refs.

    This is on a Goodell lead NFL who can’t decide whether they should cater to fantasy players or to their real fans. All the stupid rule changes to help Payton have backfired and now they’re trying to put it on the refs.

    Goodell needs to go.

  13. This is why I have trouble understanding how anyone could bet on the NFL. Risk my hard-earned money on this circus league that prides itself on the parity of close games, but then can’t correctly call them, thus changing the outcome? No Thanks.

  14. The league is nearly unwatchable. Goodell has conditioned all fans to look for flags after every play. That’s not enjoyable and I hate him for doing this to us. It wasn’t long ago that flags were extreme exceptions. Now its the other way around. No flags are the extreme exception. I hope this league dies and a real league comes of it.

  15. The next commissioner really needs to clean up the rule book, eliminate so many judgement calls, and simplify the game. Right now it’s a coin toss whether or not we see a flag on any given play. Hard to watch.

  16. The refs are killing the game. Absolutely horrible calls all game long. Holding calls when there’s no holding at all. Not calling holding when it’s completely blatant. The refusal to throw flags on pick plays. And the automatic first down on defensive holding or illegal contact is absurd. 3rd and 25, defender looks at a receiver wrong way or breathes on him, yep defensive holding, 1st down. It’s garbage. It’s to the point where you anticipate a flag on every big play. It’s ruining the game. Just let em play and only call the blatant stuff.

  17. “Bring back the replacements, they do a better job than the union pieces of trash.”

    41 61

    These are the replacements! NFL had replace over a dozen officials that quit in the offseason.

  18. Godell’s gone. He has to be. Owners have billions on the line and this level of dysfunction won’t be tolerated.

  19. We just need the NFLRA to get their agreement settled with the NFL so we can get rid of these replacement refs… They have been horrible.

  20. The Packers’ Nick Collins got flagged for sliding on his knees after his pick 6 in the Super Bowl a few years ago.

    Sliding on your knees is a penalty. Praying isn’t.

  21. On further review, NFL officiating still sucks.

    They should spend more time figuring out what pass interference looks like than complaining about the league.

  22. Refs making bad calls should be fined and suspended if needed. Why are they any better than the players (which people pay to see).

  23. The League should change it’s name to the NFFL – National Flag Football League
    Between the commercials, Flags and the reviews it is almost worst than a Baseball game.
    Blaming the refs is ridiculous, I believe they are doing the best they can with the amount rules, especially rules that no one knows what they mean.

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