Heading into the first week of the NFL regular season, the replacement officials were a huge story. After one of the biggest blown calls in NFL history on Monday night, they have become national news. While the league has done everything in its power to stop players and coaches from berating the fill-in refs, analysts and broadcasters are no longer holding back. Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth led the way by ripping the calls in the Sunday night game, and Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden followed suit on Monday. Now we’re learning from former safety and current FOX NFL analyst John Lynch that the league wanted broadcasters to go easy on the replacement refs in Week 1.
“I know Week 1 the league I think kind of duped every network in calling us and said ‘we’re close to a deal, so have your guys go easy.’ So that was kind of the edict from up top: go easy on these guys,” Lynch said during an appearance on “The Dan Patrick Show.”
“[The league wasn’t] telling us not to say anything, but be careful because a deal was close. And then they duped us like everybody else. So the next week it was take the gloves off, say whatever you want — and we have.”
Sounds like the NFL was trying to control the message initially, but once the replacement refs became as big of a disaster as they did, and things hit a DEFCON 1 stage, the NFL really couldn’t say much. Even ESPN broadcasters were ripping the refs, and they hardly ever say anything off-script.
The good news is that enough fans and media members spoke out about the disaster, forcing what could be a settlement between the sides. That’s why it’s important not to be silenced and to speak out when things are wrong.