The League

Gene Wang
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Gene Wang

A sports staff writer at The Washington Post

Accountability Please

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Officials long have been untouchable members of the professional sports landscape. They make a call, and coaches, players and fans must live with it, even if replays prove their judgment in error. The NFL's intractable position on officials is outdated and unfair, and it needs to be amended. A player absolutely should be allowed to have a difference of opinion on a call and be able to air that grievance in a public forum, whether that be in a television interview, on a personal blog or another media platform, and not face disciplinary action. That doesn't mean officials should change a call simply because a player disputes it. It just makes officials at least somewhat accountable. Players and coaches are critiqued all the time. Same with general managers and even NFL owners. Why shouldn't officials be rated similarly if they make poor decisions? I applauded Ed Hochuli a few weeks ago when he admitted he made a mistake during the Denver-San Diego game. His missed call went a long way in costing the Chargers a win, but at least he had the gumption to say he blew it. We all know officials are infallible. Sometimes, however, they seem to think they aren't. Allowing players to voice their difference of opinion with a call is one of the many steps the league can take to remove that untouchable aura.

By Gene Wang  |  October 8, 2008; 2:26 PM ET  | Category:  NFL Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Players should be allowed to voice opinions, but only after the game. Having been an official at various levels, players already "jaw" decisions on the field. But it's respectable. Off the field, when the game's done, I believe that players become fans and should be free to say whatever they want. When did the NFL become above the right to free speech?

As for Hochuli's error, isn't that what replay is supposed to fix? There would have been no more harm for SD to gain possession on the fumble even if the whistle-blowing stopped the player from advancing the ball. Kids on a playground would have figured that one out.

Officials are the third team on the field in any sport. They need protection from verbal assault. But they're only there to keep the game fair. They should be able to handle post game criticism the same way it's expected of teams, players, and coaches. If they can't handle it, get off the field.

Posted by: Al | October 8, 2008 4:51 PM

The players after game statement should be nothing more than "I disagree with the call and I'm disappointed that it changed the outcome of the game." Anything else is WHINING. I will not provide an audience for that. Daycare is at the nanny's house, not my living room. THat is the bottom line, correct, to get me to watch more commercials... The other network is only a remote click away.

Posted by: Krooz | October 9, 2008 12:36 AM

"We all know officials are infallible."

Did you mean "fallible"? or "not infallible"?

Regardless, there is a big difference between speaking out and libel. There are already systems in place for disputing referee's calls, suggesting that one is not only bias but financially motivated is not one of them.

Posted by: Squatty HJ | October 9, 2008 8:53 AM

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