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NFL Replacement Refs Controversy refers to various online discussions surrounding the disputed referee ruling of a pass that ultimately determined the outcome of the NFL season match between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers in Sepetember of 2012. Shortly after the game ended, many football fans reacted on various social media outlets to vent their frustration against the referees.
On September 24th, 2012, the NFL season match between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers ended in controversy after the referees’ questionable ruling over the last play of the game: a 24-yard-long pass thrown by the Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson that appeared to have been intercepted by the Packers defender M. D. Jennings.
The ruling was further worsened by the fact that the referees on the field were substituting for regular referees who had been locked out of the games due to a contractual dispute with the NFL.
On September 24th, Redditor Wolfeman0101 submitted a post to the /r/GreenBayPackers subreddit titled “That is the worst call in NFL history”, which received over 1,300 up votes and 680 comments within 24 hours. The same day, Redditor scarecrowbar submitted a post to the /r/nfl subreddit calling for New York City Redditors to attend a protest against the replacement refs at the NFL headquarters the following day, which reached the front page accumulating over 2,420 up votes and 520 comments within 24 hours.
On September 17th, prior to the Seahawks-Packers game, the sports news blog ESPN Go published a post titled “Social Media Reacts to Replacement Refs”, which reported that there had been 680,000 tweets with the keyword “ref” published in the past month. Following the controversial Seahawks-Packers decision, the AOL Sporting News blog published a post titled “Packers vs. Seahawks result draws fast, furious criticism of replacement refs,” which listed tweets by notable figures in sports reacting to the referee call. On September 25th, the official Twitter blog published a post titled “NFL Week 3: #OnlyOnTwitter edition,” revealing that the final play of the Green Bay Packers vs Sea Hawks game generated more than 150,000 retweets between them. The same day, the viral content site BuzzFeed published a post reporting that a tweet by Greenbay Packers left tackle TJ Lang could become the most retweeted message of all time.
Fuck it NFL.. Fine me and use the money to pay the regular refs.
— TJ Lang (@TJLang70) September 25, 2012
Also on September 25th, the entertainment news blog EOnline published an article titled “Monday Night Football Controversy: Celebs React to Replacement Refs’ Blown Call”, which highlighted tweets made by various celebrities reacting to the referee call, including Bill Maher, James Van Der Beek, Patton Oswalt, Khloe Kardashian Odom and President Obama.
So the NFL with replacement refs is now like a card game with Jokers included as wild cards – every 10 plays or so it just makes no sense
— Bill Maher (@billmaher) September 25, 2012
OK, @nflcommish Roger Goodell tried to play hardball w/ the refs. He’s clearly lost. Or has he? Replacement refs are signaling touchdown…
— James Van Der Beek (@vanderjames) September 25, 2012
“‘Replacement Refs!’ It writes itself!” -- every shitty screenwriter in every L.A. Starbucks right now.
— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) September 25, 2012
Bad day to be a replacement ref SMH
— KhloéKardashianOdom (@KhloeKardashian) September 25, 2012
President Obama last week: “Is it just me or do we have to get our regular refs back?” OFA.BO/bWqfT4
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) September 25, 2012
On September 24th, the sports news blog Busted Coverage published a post titled “20 Best NFL Replacement Ref Memes to Make You LOLZ”, featuring a gallery of NFL replacement referee photographs with captions presenting the subjects as confused and dim-witted. On September 25th, the tech news blog Mashable published a post titled “Memes Tackle NFL Over Fumbled Interception Call”, which featured a slideshow highlighting notable image macros mocking the referees. The same day, the Internet humor site The FW published a post titled “The Best Reaction Memes to the NFL Replacement Refs,” included a variety of image macros related to the game call.
News Media Coverage
On September 25th, several news media outlets published articles about the final play, including CBS Sports, Los Angeles Times, Sports Illustrated, Time, Fox Sports and the Washington Post. The same day, the sports blog Deadspin published an article reporting that the Lingerie Football League fired several referees who had since been hired by the NFL on the grounds of incompetence, citing a statement released by the league’s commissioner Mitch Mortaza. Also on September 25th, the Washington Post reported that former United States president Bill Clinton did not agree with the referee call and ABC News quoted President Barack Obama saying the outcome of the game was “terrible.”
On September 25th, the NFL released an official statement regarding the outcome of the game, announcing that referee Wayne Elliot ruled that there was no “indisputable evidence” to overturn the call and the touchdown would remain recognized.
In Monday’s game between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks, Seattle faced a 4th-and-10 from the Green Bay 24 with eight seconds remaining in the game. Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson threw a pass into the end zone.
While the ball is in the air, Tate can be seen shoving Green Bay cornerback Sam Shields to the ground. This should have been a penalty for offensive pass interference, which would have ended the game. It was not called and is not reviewable in instant replay.
When the players hit the ground in the end zone, the officials determined that both Tate and Jennings had possession of the ball. Under the rule for simultaneous catch, the ball belongs to Tate, the offensive player.
The result of the play was a touchdown. Replay Official Howard Slavin stopped the game for an instant replay review. The aspects of the play that were reviewable included if the ball hit the ground and who had possession of the ball.
In the end zone, a ruling of a simultaneous catch is reviewable.
That is not the case in the field of play, only in the end zone. Referee Wayne Elliott determined that no indisputable visual evidence existed to overturn the call on the field, and as a result, the on-field ruling of touchdown stood.
The NFL Officiating Department reviewed the video today and supports the decision not to overturn the on-field ruling following the instant replay review.
The result of the game is final
Prior to the Seahawks-Packers game on September 17th, ESPN published an article revealing that Google search queries for the keywords “replacements referees” rose 210% from August to September of 2012.
Los Angeles Times – Packers vs. Seahawks The Replacement Officials Finally Broke the NFL
Sports Illustrated – Lack of communication ultimately led to embarassing Monday gaffe
Busted Coverage – 20 Best NFL Replacement Ref Memes To Make You LOLZ