Bad Calls & the NFL Brand: Let’s Get a Grip

People have short memories. Those now claiming the NFL’s integrity is at stake over the controversy involving replacement refs have forgotten the league once used replacement players during a strike. Yet, when that episode ended, fans returned in greater numbers than ever before and so too did the billions of dollars in revenue.

Many are exaggerating the impact of the replacement refs’ problem on the NFL. Fans have always complained about the refs. When the regulars do come back, this will continue. The replacements provide additional incentive to complain. That’s not to deny the refs are struggling. The call that ended the Packers’ game was embarrassing. But we forget how many controversies the regular refs created. Some poor officiating is as much a part of the NFL as dropped passes and blown coverage.

As long as the NFL produces a product viewers want to see, it will flourish. To be clear, Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL are getting a black eye over this, but this will soon be ancient history once a settlement is reached.

What is most significant are the implications this fight may have on management-labor relations nationwide. The fight between the owners and refs is largely over pensions and job security. Does that sound familiar? If the eventual outcome affects how those matters are resolved elsewhere, that is far more important than whether or not your favorite football team wins on Sunday.

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The writer is a former sportscaster and current crisis communication expert and political consultant. More at