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Referee temps have ’01 scab experience



Crossing the proverbial picket line is familiar to some of this year’s replacement officials. That’s because the NFL has found somebody that they used to know.

Eleven years ago, when the NFL Referees Association went on strike, the league hired replacement officials, who served in the preseason and Week 1 of the 2001 regular season. Now that the union and the league are at another impasse, the NFL has hired at least nine officials from the 2001 replacement squads to officiate during the current lockout:

  • Dennis Angel (umpire): Packers-Chargers
  • Lynn Lawhon (head linesman): Packers-Chargers
  • Jerry Frump (referee): Jets-Bengals
  • Bill Etzler (head linesman): Jets-Bengals
  • Randall Beesley (side judge): Jets-Bengals
  • Bob Powell (field judge): Browns-Lions
  • Jeff Hopf (field judge): Giants-Jaguars
  • McKinney Griffin (alternate): Cardinals-Chiefs (will be umpire next week)
  • Mike Peek: not scheduled until week 2 of preseason (will be head linesman next week)

Lynn Lawhon retired from officiating in 1999 after 21 years, but decided to take up the NFL’s offer in 2001.

Dennis Angel was a Pacific 10 Conference umpire. He and the rest of his crew were suspended for one game in 2006 for a missed illegal touching penalty on an onsides kickoff that affected the result of a game. His career blemish is minor compared with one of his fellow strikebreakers.

Randall Beesley was the referee in the Raiders-Chiefs game during the 2001 strike. Beesley’s professionalism was called into question by Raiders receiver Tim Brown when Beesley came to shake the hand of teammate Jerry Rice during the game and said it “is an honor to referee a game with you.”

Later in the game, Brown was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct when, according to him, he questioned an incomplete pass ruling that was reviewed.

I asked, “What was the ruling?” The referee said that he didn’t get knocked out of bounds. I asked him if he saw the replay. He said, “Get out of my face or I’m going to kick your ass out.”

I said, “What?” Then he threw the flag. I never said anything out of disrespect toward him because I wouldn’t do that. I thought it was totally inappropriate.

Despite Beesley’s availability, it is surprising that the league chose someone with that past experience. But, maybe the background checks were not as thorough as we would think.

Updated 8/16: Added Mike Peek to the list.

Ben Austro is the editor and founder of Football Zebras and the author of So You Think You Know Football?: The Armchair Ref's Guide to the Official Rules (on sale now)