Through the first day of the 2012 NFL preseason, the league's replacement refs have made several questionable calls -- our favorite was the guy in the Atlanta Falcons-Baltimore Ravens game who said that the Arizona Cardinals would not be charged with a timeout -- but that's to be expected. After all, we're also seeing some "replacement" players in these preseason games, and things aren't always going to be pretty.
What is inexcusable on the NFL's part is that one of the replacement refs seems to have a pretty shady past, and another was part of the worst conference officiating crews in the history of college football. This was revealed by CBS Sports' Mike Freeman on his Twitter account, and the details are disturbing, to say the least.
One of the replacement refs, a line judge working a game tonight, was fired from his job as a teacher after it was discovered he sent letters that contained scrawled threats and racist hate messages to co-workers. It was determined this line judge actually sent the racist cards to himself and others, so he could be transferred. Eventually, the school used a handwriting expert to determine the teacher wrote the notes, according to a published report.
Great. Another official, per Freeman, was part of the Pac-10's officiating crew before former NFL ref apologist Mike Pereira was named the conference's officiating czar and fired several of the incompetent refs then working.
A second replacement official was at the center of what is considered one of the worst officiated Pac-10 games in that league's history. USC-Stanford game in 2010. Late in the game, USC ahead. Close game. Official, now a replacement ref, forgot to start the clock. This allowed Stanford to get ball back sooner than it should have and they won the game. Writers covering the contest called it one of the worst officiated games they had ever seen.
So, that's one guy who was involved in written hate speech, and another who doesn't know when to start the game clock and was fired as a college official for his own incompetence. We know that the Pac-10 official was fired, because Division I officials aren't allowed to moonlight as refs anywhere else.
What does this tell us? It tells us that Roger Goodell's party line -- that there's no need for concern about the replacement officials -- is a load of garbage. Because we also now know that the NFL did no real vetting whatsoever when hiring the replacement officials. Standard operating procedure would be to perform a detailed background check to avoid the appearance of impropriety -- the last thing the NFL wants or needs is an official with a shaky past, because that's the one bookmakers are going after if they want to influence a result.
It tells us that the NFL has totally and completely botched the hiring process of the replacement officials, and that the league should be forced to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement with the real refs as soon as is legally possible.