If the National Football League Players' Association truly cares about the 1,600-plus men it represents, it will spend the better part of Tuesday organizing its troops for the mother of all wildcat strikes.
Players sounded off like never before after replacement referees completely botched the end of Monday night's Seattle Seahawks-Green Bay Packers game, mistakenly calling a simultaneous catch on a game-winning Seattle touchdown that should have been ruled an interception. (A photo of the refs' inability to agree on the call can be seen here.) Officials also missed a blatant pass interference call on the man who caught the deciding TD pass, Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate.
Most of the player responses to the debacle were downright vitriolic - even those from guys who were nowhere near the field. Here is just a sampling of what was posted on Twitter last night:
Come on @NFL this s**t is getting out of Control. Caused (sic) us a DAMN game. Horrible!
-- Jermichael Finley (@JermichaelF88), Packers tight end
Any player/coach in Seattle that really thinks they won that game has zero integrity as a man and should be embarrassed.
-- TJ Lang (@TJLang70), Packers guard
I love this league and love the game of football, but tonight’s debacle hurts me greatly. This is NOT the league we’re supposed to represent
-- Drew Brees (@drewbrees), New Orleans Saints quarterback
One of the great disgraces in NFL history.
-- Peter King (@SI_PeterKing), long-time NFL writer
Only the fans can stop this madness! Have the fans boycott week 4. And the refs will have a new contract in 60 seconds
-- Marcus Allen (@MarcusAllenHOF), Hall of Fame running back
Mr. Allen may be onto something - but history has taught us that while fans kvetch and moan an awful lot, they rarely ever do the talking with their wallets. A far more likely development would be a sudden strike by the players, who appear to have reached their collective boiling point over the stunning incompetence of replacement officials who aren't adequately trained to handle the fast pace of NFL action.
It's worth noting that NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith has already addressed the possibility in an interview with Sports Illustrated prior to the start of the season. When asked if the players would consider "withholding their services because of safety concerns with replacement officials," Smith had this to say:
"In America it is the employer's obligation to provide as safe a working environment as possible. We believe that if the National Football League fails in that obligation we reserve the right to seek any relief that we believe is appropriate. The NFL has chosen to prevent the very officials that they have trained, championed and cultivated for decades to be on the field to protect players and -- by their own admission -- further our goal of enhanced safety. That is absurd on its face."
Bear in mind - Smith made these comments before the replacement refs collectively turned in the worst officiating performance since Frank Drebin:
Between botched pass interference calls (like the one during last night's pivotal final play), confusion over whether or not an infraction actually was an infraction and a lack of basic knowledge of the league rules - particularly as they govern replays and timeouts - the replacement officials have raised the exact concerns Smith addressed in his interview with SI.
If he meant what he said, then it's time for a walkout - an immediate walkout.
The majority of players who have spoken out about the issue acknowledge that the presence of scab officials has made the game they love more corrupt and less safe. Players have been taking more liberties with one another - partly through frustration, partly through the desire to see what they can get away with - while referees have yet to show even the slightest ability to maintain control.
With the integrity of their livelihoods at stake - not to mention their health and well-being - the players need to make a statement that they will not continue putting their bodies on the line with replacement officials on the field. Perhaps then, commissioner Roger Goodell will recognize the folly he has helped facilitate and do whatever it takes to reach an accord with the locked-out referees.
It's one thing for players to mouth off on social media. If they want their words and actions to truly matter, they should band together and bring the league to a screeching halt. It may be their best chance to bring an immediate end to the unmitigated disaster their league has become.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com