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Replacement Refs Hurt NFL Brand



Did you drop something?

The National Football League’s of replacement referees threatens the NFL brand and revenues.

The NFL, according to Forbes magazine, boasts that 20 teams have a value of over $1 billion – with the Dallas Cowboys leading in valuation at $2.1 billion. With so much at stake it’s stunning that the NFL seems content to keep the regular refs on the bench.

In Week 1, there were no major errors by the replacements, but Week 2 was not pretty. This week, there was controversy with the refs before the games even started. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that side judge Brian Stropolo, a replacement ref, was being pulled from the New Orleans Saints-Carolina Panthers game because…well, he was a Saints fan. Stropolo had pictures of himself in Saints gear all over his Facebook page. So a replacement ref had to be replaced. The most embarrassing thing? It took notification from ESPN for the NFL to discover this fact.

Here’s a list, compiled by the Bleacher Report, of reasons why replacement refs are hurting the NFL:

  • Games take longer. Last night’s game took nearly an hour to complete the first quarter, most notably marred by a six-minute delay to sort out a fumble
  • They’re like substitute teachers. Players are taking advantage of the replacements which creates more on-field mayhem.
  • Game outcomes altered. Wins and losses are a big deal in a short season like the NFL. Nobody wants a W or an L because of a ref.

The NFL is a well-oiled, multi-billion dollar machine. Putting the games in the hands of refs who are not qualified is absolutely ludicrous, and breaks the covenant that the NFL has with its teams and fans, that the games will be fair and well-managed. This is a big year for the NFL. The league is coming off another record-breaking ratings season; Nike has started its apparel contract. The replacement refs threaten to stanch that momentum. Using them is simply an unsound business decision.

Of course, the Twitterverse is alive with tweets about the NFL and the replacement refs. One we especially liked during last night’s Monday Night game from ESPN’s Rick Reilly, “NFL just announced small error in tonight’s officiating crew. Three guys are from Foot Locker.”

It’s time the NFL realizes its brand is in jeopardy and acts decisively to shore it up.

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