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Calls Grow For NFL To Settle Dispute With Refs


Well, as if NFL fans weren't ticked off enough about the replacement referees who are officiating this season's games, we bring you last night. The Seattle Seahawks beat the Green Bay Packers in the final seconds to win 14 to 12, at least that's how the refs on the field saw it. The outcome is prompting new calls for the NFL and its regular officials to settle this labor dispute that prompted the league to lock out their officials in June. Joining me to talk about last night is NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman.

And, Tom, are you ticked off?


TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: I'm completely objective here, David.

GREENE: Yes, you are.

GOLDMAN: But let me just say...

GREENE: What happened? Tell me what happened in this game.

GOLDMAN: OK. Seattle trailing 12 to seven, rookie quarterback Russell Wilson throws a Hail Mary pass into the end zone as the game ends. And a group of players jumps for the ball. The player who jumped highest - Green Bay defensive back M.D. Jennings - appeared to make the catch over Seattle wide receiver Golden Tate.

So they crashed to the ground. And, again, to the naked eye it appears Jennings still has control. The ball's pinned to his chest. Two officials run up, and in a scene that captures the confusion of this whole three weeks of often shoddy officiating, one signals touchdown, the other waves his arms, signaling to stop the clock...

GREENE: Oh, God.

GOLDMAN: ...preparing to call a touchback.

And, you know, clearly it did not appear to be a simultaneous catch, which would've automatically meant a touchdown for the Seahawks. Anyway, there's a review of the play. The call on the field, touchdown, is upheld.

GREENE: But you had two officials standing there, you're saying, one calling touchdown, the other saying that the ball was intercepted?


GREENE: That kind of captures the whole season, probably, in the views of a lot of NFL fans.

GOLDMAN: That's right.

GREENE: Why - I mean, this play was reviewed. Every scoring play in a game can be reviewed. I mean, how did the officials not see that the Packers, you know, intercepted the ball, which is what, you know, we thought we all saw?

GOLDMAN: See everything that we saw? Yeah. We've yet to hear anything. Not sure we will. The rules say there must be indisputable evidence to overturn a call. And if the review determines that it's too difficult to tell what the correct call would be, the original call stands, which is what happened. So they must've felt that, you know, too difficult to tell, even though millions thought it was not too difficult to tell.

GREENE: And the other thing a lot of people saw was that the Seattle receiver who was given credit for catching the touchdown pass pushed the Packers defender out of the way before catching the ball, which should've, in theory, been a penalty.

GOLDMAN: You mean shoved with two hands? Yeah. Golden Tate did that. Pass interference is not often called on those last-second Hail Mary plays into the end zone, which is probably why they let that go. Or maybe they just looked right at it and said, oh, I didn't see anything bad.

GREENE: There's been a lot of reaction to this already this morning.

GOLDMAN: Oh, absolutely. Dramatic. Here's some tape actually from last night's post-game show on ESPN with first analyst Steve Young, Hall of Fame quarterback, and followed by former Super Bowl-winning quarterback Trent Dilfer.


STEVE YOUNG: You've got to be kidding me that I have to watch games turn one way or another on people that are not competently presented. The NFL's too good for this and it's too big for this, and it's hard to watch.

TRENT DILFER: And it's ironic, because we said it last week, for 10 years this commissioner's office has been coming into these NFL locker rooms saying we will do anything to protect the shield, anything. We're going to go - we're going to exhaust every opportunity to protect this brand.

YOUNG: Every one of us were all..

DILFER: It's ironic that you, the NFL, is what's screwing this brand up right now.

GREENE: People are worked up. So is this going to end the labor dispute? I mean, could this be the final straw?

GOLDMAN: You know, everyone is hyperventilating about this being the tipping point. But one very learned NFL insider, former Packers executive Andrew Brandt, doesn't think that'll happen. He says people have to remember that while they vilify Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, he works for the owners. And the owners are pretty hard-line on this labor situation. They say they've made a fair offer. Brandt doesn't think the owners will be leveraged into giving the officials what they want despite this game.

GREENE: All right. So the season goes on. Tom Goldman, thanks so much.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.


GREENE: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.
Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on