Many football fans out there have been fed up with the replacement referees that have been presiding over the NFL’s preseason games while the NFL Referees’ Association is locked out during negotiations with the league. Now those fans can rest easy, because their most brutally honest opinions of the replacement refs have been voiced. Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe called out the replacement refs in this Deadspin article.
Kluwe has always been among the most outspoken players, and he continued that pattern by noting the many refereeing problems that have been plaguing NFL games this preseason. The odds are good that if you’ve watched a football game in the last month, you’ve seen at least one mind-numbing call by referees that were promoted from college and high school positions to officiate in the big league.
Kluwe described the preseason games as “watching a Lamborghini roll around on 8-inch spare tires.” Ouch. Referees are expected to not be perfect and make a few bad calls in a game. But some of the calls we’ve seen in the preseason that Kluwe referenced, such as the punt downed at the 4 in the Buffalo-Washington game that was ruled a touchback and placing the ball on the wrong hash mark for a punt, have been completely asinine and truly tarnish the product that has been put on the field.
The largest chip that the NFL and other major sports leagues can use in negotiations is the knowledge that the fans will always come back to the game they know and love, even if games or whole seasons are lost. That means profits will always come, and the commissioner and owners will get what they want. But if the replacement refs continue to officiate this poorly into the regular season, allowing the on-field product of games to be tarnished, it could be a major dent in the league’s negotiating tactics.
Surely Chris Kluwe will be fined for speaking out against the league and the replacement referees this brashly. But fans everywhere will be rejoicing that their opinions are being voiced by someone inside the league. The NFL’s lockout on the referees won’t end in the next few hours before the regular season kicks off, but hopefully we will see the NFL referees we know and love back in action soon.