From: Chris Kluwe
To: Tommy Craggs, Stefan Fatsis, Drew Magary
So when we first started talking, I thought it would be fun to poke at the replacement refs a bit, maybe illustrate that they weren't prepared to operate on the level the NFL requires. But never in my worst nightmares did I imagine we'd see what just happened on Monday Night Football. The outcome of a regular-season NFL game, one of 16 in the season, was determined by the replacement refs, and they got it irrevocably wrong.
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I'm speaking, of course, of the game that just concluded between the Seahawks and the Packers, a game that came down to the very last play, and a game which illustrated beyond a doubt that the replacement officials simply are not qualified for the NFL. Like I've said before, it's not due to lack of effort or desire, but simply due to a lack of ability. Just like we wouldn't expect a high school player to keep pace with Ray Lewis, it's unfair to think the replacements can handle the pressure and intensity of a stage that they've never been on.
Let's be clear: We're past the preseason now. These games really matter, and the Packers just lost one that counts for real, one that by all rights they should have won. As a divisional rival, it pains me to say this, but the Packers got royally horsebuggered on that last play, and this could have serious implications down the road when it comes to playoff seeds and homefield advantage.
One of the main points Commissioner Goodell has always harped on is protecting the shield: not letting anything tarnish the brand of the NFL. Commissioner, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but right now the shield is tarnishing faster than a sailor's virtue in a two-dollar whorehouse. Players see it; coaches see it; fans see it. These refs are not fit to stand in for the men you've locked out for what is increasingly looking like nothing more than simple greed—attempting to squeeze blood from a stone simply because you can. The NFL is America's No. 1 sport in part because everyone watching it knows that the players determine the outcome of a game, not the refs. As of right now, you're hurting business by putting a product out on the field that challenges that belief.
We all know that the regular refs sometimes get calls wrong, but never this egregiously, never this overtly. Sure, they may miss a pass interference or a holding call, but they always mark off the right yardage, and there's a trust that they'll get the vast majority of the calls right. Right now, there's no trust for the replacement refs. We've seen them make mistake after mistake, and it'll only get worse as players and coaches continue to push the envelope to see what they can get away with (extra timeouts are pretty awesome, not gonna lie).
As a player, as someone whose paycheck relies on the fans' interest and their consumption of this game, I'm asking you to do what's best for the NFL and get the regular refs back on the field. It may sting your pride, and that of the owners who employ you, but at the end of the day this is a business, and a very successful one at that. I'm asking you: Please don't risk alienating your customers over something that should never have been an issue in the first place. Bring the regular refs back before it gets even worse.
Chris Kluwe is a punter for the Vikings. Follow him on Twitter, @ChrisWarcraft.