The League

Zach Leibowitz
Sideline Reporter

Zach Leibowitz

A former sideline reporter for ESPN

Integrity Means Silence


It's a tricky subject because sometimes the calls on the field are terrible and often become game changers, even season changers. Often times players get caught up in the heat of the moment and rip the refs during post-game interviews because they declare it was not pass interference, or it was a blatant hold and you missed it. They speak their mind, it's caught on tape and aired on cable television across the country - not to mention written in newspapers and posted all over the Internet. This is where the line needs to be drawn by the league and swift punishment needs to be handed out.

At the heart of the NFL is the game itself. It's the reason why players play, coaches coach and fans flock far and wide to watch their favorite teams in action every weekend. Without the referees and officials on the field, the game can not be played because what would be the point?

The referees are inherently good at what they do and attempt to call the game as fair and honest as they see it. As fans, we have to believe that. The integrity of the game must be maintained at all times. It's still completely devastating what Tim Donaghy has done to the NBA because of the damage he has done to the reputation of the officials in the eyes of the players and most importantly, the fans.

If the fans see players constantly berating the officials on and off the field, they'll begin to question themselves whether what they're watching is honest play.

Punishing the players is a necessary way to prevent this from happening, from airing on-the-field dirty laundry into the fans conscience. The higher the punishment, the less ripping of the refs you will find.

There's also a better way to go about raising an issue with the officiating. There is a league office and people who are in charge of the rules and monitor the referees. Like any problem you find at your office, address it professionally and promptly with the appropriate management and resources provided.

Ultimately, it's human nature and perfectly appropriate for players to disagree with an official's call. But for the integrity of the game itself, which is the most important thing, referees cannot be ripped by the players in the public eye. It's up to the league to prevent that and they do - through punishment.

By Zach Leibowitz  |  October 8, 2008; 10:50 AM ET  | Category:  NFL Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: The Officials Can Take It | Next: Let the Players Speak


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This is a country founded on free speech, and I think players should be allowed to rationally comment on referees decisions, although they shouldn't be permitted to "rip" them. Any comment that personally attacks a ref (like suggesting that a call was based on gambling or bribes, etc.) should be fined, but the players have right to speak otherwise. I think that part of the problem is that refs don't appear to have to answer in any way for blatantly bad calls. I don't know that we can expect them to be fined (how much do they get paid?) but there needs to be some acknowledgment from the league that these were bad calls. But the players should be able to speak out in a civilized manner.

Posted by: concerned fan | October 8, 2008 10:32 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 12:29 AM

That is the same type of ridiculous reasoning that has certain candidates for president, for instance, speaking to the voting public like we are a bunch of blind, simpletons. Look, the fans know that the ref sucks; gagging the players is not going to sway that sentiment one way or another. Nothing erodes integrity in anything, (be it sports or say, an administration) like forced silence! Americans are not sheep, and the last I looked, being a referee is a job, not a sentence (i.e., if they can't take the heat, they should get the hell out of the game!!)

Posted by: Guisher | October 9, 2008 6:41 AM

Simple solutions to bad calls. 1) Have the coach challenge the call. Expand what infractions may be challenged. 2) Have three refs at each position. So if only one ref throws a flag, no penalty.

So what if the game is further lengthened to 4 or 5 hours because of endless challenges, replay reviews, etc.

Fans will not be happy with officiating until they get to make all the calls themselves. Bad calls are part of the game. They give the Monday morning quarterbacks an excuse for why their team lost.

Posted by: Kevin | October 9, 2008 6:50 AM

"The referees are inherently good at what they do and attempt to call the game as fair and honest as they see it. As fans, we have to believe that." --Zach

In order to enjoy the games, we do have to believe that. There was too much evidence to the contrary so I gave up being a fan.

Your definition of integrity means undivided, mine leans to honesty.

Posted by: brmn1 | October 9, 2008 10:55 AM

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