Alex Kemp, the lead referee for Detroit-Seattle at Ford Field, was announcing a call to the Ford Field crowd over the microphone when Smith came up to argue early in the fourth quarter. With the microphone still turned on, Kemp turned to the quarterback and stated, "I'm talking to America here" to try to calm him.
"I'm talking to America here." 🤣😂 That's CMU alumnus, Alex Kemp, delivering one of the greatest referee soundbites in pro sports history, while working the Lions-Seahawks game on Sunday. Alex has been an official in the NFL since 2014. #WeDoNFLofficiating #FireUpChips pic.twitter.com/gXjZBtqKe3
— CMU Alumni (@cmualumni) September 18, 2023
After the moment went viral, Central Michigan posted that Kemp attended the school and was a member of the 1995 football team as a punter. Kemp began work in the NFL as a side judge, where he spent four years before becoming a regular referee in 2018.
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Kemp's crew were under heavy scrutiny Sunday from Lions fans, who believed the referees missed a few crucial calls in the overtime loss. Head coach Dan Campbell said after the game the Lions made too many mistakes to be able to be upset by the officiating.
But Kemp also gave the Lions a huge break in the fourth quarter on the call referenced above, when Smith threw into the end zone where he thought his receiver would be. Instead, the wideout broke to the sideline, leading the refs to call intentional grounding despite it being clear Smith was not under duress in the pocket and instead it was miscommunication between he and the receiver.
"He ran the wrong route," Smith was heard saying to Kemp, before being interrupted with five words heard 'round the football world. (The Seahawks overcame the questionable call and scored a touchdown to take a 24-21 lead.)
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: NFL ref in viral Lions-Seahawks moment attended Central Michigan