A group of high school football officials in Washington state were trying to support breast cancer research while working this week's games, so they made a pledge to donate all game checks to the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Then, to top off the charitable gesture, they announced they would all use pink whistles during the games. Now there's a chance those whistles could cost the refs a chance to work state playoff games.
According to KING 5 News -- with thanks for the news report above -- and the Associated Press, officials who are part of the Pacific Northwest Football Officials Association who worked games on Thursday night were informed by the chair of the Washington Officials Association that they could face a two-game suspension for using pink whistles. The playoff ban is possible because the colored whistles violate the uniform protocol for state high school officials. Those uniforms allegedly call for black whistles only, and the WOA claims that no officials asked for permission to use pink whistles for their designated charity games.
The chair of the WOA, Todd Stordahl, told KING 5 News and MyNorthwest.com he has little choice but to discipline officials who used colored whistles. He claims that letting them continue without punishment would send the wrong message to student athletes.
"They chose not to ask for permission, not to go the right route," Stordahl told KING 5. "It sends the wrong message to kids that are playing the game. 'If they broke the rules why can't I do the same.'"
Though no discipline has been decided upon, Stordahl indicated it was likely that pink whistle-blowing officials would be suspended for two playoff games. That would not only keep the referees from working at the annual pinnacle of their sport, but also cost them two game checks.
Considering that the referees were already donating one game check to charity, that would leave them with three fewer checks than in a typical season.
Meanwhile, MyNorthwest.com is reporting the PNFOA is arguing the dress code for officials does not technically specify that only black whistles be used, which means any suspensions would be unwarranted. That follows a Tuesday PNFOA meeting in which the group's president, Mike Livingston, said the board voted unanimously to use the colored whistles, regardless of penalty.
The officials themselves seem to be on board with the PNFOA decision, due to a commitment the referees felt to both breast cancer awareness and each other. There's little indication that the threat that came Thursday night from the WOA will keep them from using the pink whistles they intended.
"A lot of the guys in the association have been touched by breast cancer in some way," referee Jeff Mattson told MyNorthwest.com. "So we decided to take on the Susan G. Komen Foundation."