This week, the NFL kicked off its regular season last Wednesday with replacement referees, due to delayed contract negotiations with the league’s regular referees. While the replacement referees might be endangering the positions of the regular ones, they are also endangering something else: the value of the NFL. The NFL needs new referees, and they need them now.
For one, most of the replacement referees have little to no college background. While the league did search for those with college background, the individual background of each referee was kept a mystery. This is one reason why their preseason performance has not been impressive, to say the least.
With an interview with CNN, Kevin Lincoln, a deputy sports editor of social media website BuzzFeed said, “They were bad. Most of these referees hail from leagues where the quality of play is slower, (there are) lower-stakes, and just generally different than the NFL. Not only did refs make incorrect calls in the preseason — they also seemed to be sketchy on NFL rules.”
For example, one of the selected referees has experience in the Lingerie Football League, where women dressed in only their underwear play football. The performance of the referees has been so bad that ESPN recently released a montage of the referees calling the wrong shots.
Referee performance is not the only thing that is hurt. Bad calls can lead to severe injuries on the field.
Baltimore Ravens safety Bernard Pollard told the NFL Network he is concerned with the inexperience of the new refs, in an interview with CNN.
“It is new to them. It is new to the replacement refs,” Pollard said. “This game is so much faster than what they’ve seen. The players are much slicker than what they have seen. So we just have to hope and pray.”
While the replacements may seem like a convenient, cheaper option for the NFL, in the long-term they may de-value the integrity the NFL carries. The NFL must found a better solution to quickly end the negotiation contracts with its real referees, but putting inexperienced, struggling referees on the field is not an option.