The 31 team owners had in essence hoped that fans and players wouldn’t notice that it was fielding Division II and III college referees. Instead, it became the primary story line for a league that is notoriously sensitive to bad publicity. Some players have complained that the game is now “a national joke.”
“It’s true that people are still watching the game and ratings are actually up because of the spectacle, but I don’t think fans will be as interested in watching if they don’t believe games are being credibly officiated by week 10 or 11,” says Michael McCann, a sports law expert at Vermont Law School in South Royalton.
The pressure to break the labor impasse has been building since the preseason. Several blown calls in Week 2 added to the urgency. But nothing could have been worse than what happened Monday night, when two replacement refs stood side by side and gave conflicting signals on a game-deciding Hail Mary pass.
While most of the country (and one official) saw an interception by Green Bay Packer M.D. Jennings, the other official saw a touchdown by Seahawk receiver Golden Tate, giving the Seahawks a 14-12 win.
Players, coaches, and even presidential candidates have weighed in. President Obama tweeted that we need to get “our refs back,” while calling Monday night’s play-calling “terrible.” (He later expressed sympathy for the plight of the replacements, who are in a classic no-win situation.)