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Assignment Controversy

It never was about black or white, but whether stripes were earned fairly




Controversy not about Jerome Boger, but about broken system

Special report: Super Bowl XLVII assignment controversy

The NFL is defending its referee assignment system that many of its referees find is broken.

“Jerome Boger was the number one rated official in 2012, and is here because he deserves to be here and for no other reason,” said Ray Anderson, the NFL executive vice-president of football operations. I appeared on ESPN’s Outside the Lines on Tuesday to discuss the assignment of Boger to the Super Bowl; Anderson’s comments came in a segment following me.

But the officials have acknowledged that, of course, Boger is in the number one position because downgrades, or dings, disappeared. It was also alleged by a current official that Anderson had predetermined the result.

Another current official has come forward since our report to back up the assertions that certain grades are fixed. This official said, “Your reporting has been 100 percent accurate. I don’t know who your sources are, but they are good sources.” We are not revealing his identity because he fears retaliation from the league.

One thing we never reported was race. Our sources offered a range of possible motives for the disparity in the officials’ grades, diversity being one of them; we chose not to speculate on the league’s intentions. While the selection of Boger is alleged by my sources to have been hand-picked, there are other political reasons that could also be factors. We realize that there is a focus on race because it adds media sizzle to the story. But, the fact that grades are intentionally changing, according to multiple sources, is really the story, and not what the alleged reasons for doing so.

We are aware that this is not the first year a Super Bowl official was predetermined, and in many of those cases, race could not be a factor.

“To suggest that Jerome Boger earned this assignment because he was black is really quite insulting and offensive and, very frankly, none of us appreciate that coming from anybody,” Anderson said on ESPN.

As for Super Bowl XLVII, Ray Anderson can only reveal what the motives are, because now another official is saying he, in fact, determined the fate of some of the Super Bowl officials and of well performing officials who were notably absent from the playoffs.

“We all see this, because we see what the grades are,” an official said. “You’ve got to realize that the number one thing all officials are about is integrity. And it flies in the face of integrity when you manipulate the grades. It is so frustrating.”

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)