NFLRA Accuses NFL Of Throwing Refs Under The Bus On Controversial Calls

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

In a statement, the NFL Referees Association accuses the league of privately confirming a pair of recent flags were correctly thrown, after publicly announcing the calls were in error.

"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 first was Washington D-lineman Chris Baker blowing up Eagles QB Nick Foles with a blindside block after an interception, a hit that led to a bench-clearing fight. Baker was flagged and ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct, but two days later the NFL's VP of football operations said "he didn't do anything illegal."


But when the NFL's officiating department's grades came in, according to the NFLRA, the official was ruled as having correctly flagged Baker.

The second was Husain Abdullah receiving an excessive celebration penalty for going to his knees in prayer after returning a pick for a touchdown. Amid an immediate outcry, an NFL spokesman said the next morning the flag was in error.


But again, according to the NFLRA, that call was graded as correct.

The latter, at least, is totally understandable on the part of the NFL. The Abdullah incident was fixing to become a full-on shitshow, one the NFL snuffed by apologizing as quickly as possible, even if the flag went by the letter of the rulebook.

No, the rulebook itself is the problem here. Have you read the damn thing? They've changed the definition of an illegal hit on a quarterback or a defenseless player or really on anyone, nearly every year, to the point that no one knows what's legal anymore. No one knows what constitutes a catch. There's not actually a religious exemption anywhere in there, despite what the league said about Abdullah. The NFL's rules are impenetrable, and the league's solution to any confusion is to add even more wording. If the NFL has been two-faced on calls, as the NFLRA alleges, it's understandable; the league put itself in the position of having to privately reassure its officials that they're doing the best they can with an unworkable corpus.

Update: The NFL has given a statement to Pro Football Talk defending its actions. Paraphrased, it's basically "just because a call is wrong doesn't mean it will always be graded as wrong." It's not a helpful statement.