Politicians weigh in on the replacement ref issue

Doug Farrar
Shutdown Corner

Not that it will move either side per se, but the problems with replacement officials in the NFL have reached the point where politicians on every angle of the spectrum are using the issue to align themselves with a very large demographic of football fans.

[Michael Silver: The worst call in NFL history? | Photos]

We'll start at the top of the food chain, and work our way down. From the POTUS:

This isn't the first time Obama has mentioned the problem. The Prez is a longtime Chicago Bears fan, and he discussed the officials' lockout with Bill Willis of WTAM in Cleveland last week.

"One thing I've got to say, though ... is it just me or do we have to get our regular refs back? I can't get involved in it, but I'm just expressing my point of view as a sports fan."

We'll see what happens if the Bears lose a game due to a bad call -- Obama may be a bit more pleased that the NFC North rival Packers are now 1-2 because of what happened on Monday night.

-- The most proactive member of the political race is New Jersey State Senate President Steve Sweeney, who has announced that he wants to block replacement referees from working NFL games in his state. From his statement:

"This past weekend in the NFL has not only made a mockery of a great sport, but shined a very bright light on how important fully trained and professional officiating is to player safety. We wouldn't allow a factory or construction site to operate without fully trained supervisors on hand to ensure the safety of employees. Why should we do anything differently when the job site is a playing field?

"Whether the sport is football, soccer or baseball, when referees don't know how to properly enforce the rules, there is a real chance for unnecessary and serious injury. If the NFL insists on putting replacement officials on the field, putting players at risk, then the state shouldn't be playing a part in that."

[Dan Wetzel: Roger Goodell needs to immediately clean up officiating mess]

--That makes more sense than the take given by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, long a vocal and noted foe of unions of any kind. Walker changed his tune when it came to the effect the Packers' loss had on his own constituents.

"After catching a few hours of sleep, the Packers game is still just as painful. Return the real refs," Walker said via his Twitter account.

Of course, Walker's office had to clarify that the governor wasn't actually changing his tune.

"I don't think this [has] anything to do with unions, but has everything to do with refs making bad calls," spokesman Cullen Werwie said.

Well, it sort of does. The officials were locked out when the old collective bargaining agreement expired, and the NFL and NFL Referees Association could not come to terms. If it's not a union issue, it's certainly a grandstanding issue, and the Packers themselves would agree with that. When there were recall elections in June, and Walker's name was on the ballot, several Packers players encouraged state voters to boot Walker out of office.

You see, most NFL players kinda like the whole union idea.

[More: Seattle-Green Bay TD call could have altered $250 million in bets]

-- Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, now a Republican vice-president nominee, managed to tie Monday night's result to the Obama economic effort.

"Give me a break. It's time to get the real refs, and it reminds me of President Obama and the economy. If you can't get it right, it's time to get out."

It is not known how Ryan would settle the current labor impasse, but given his alleged history with unions, anyone criticizing the negotiating process might want to watch their backs.

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