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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.”

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Ben Austro
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)

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5 thoughts on “It never was about black or white, but whether stripes were earned fairly

  1. I heard mike peirera on mike Francesca’s show the other day he said it was sour grapes from the other officials. I respect peirera but I think politics plays a part in everything we do to have a couple of dings removed is one thing but 8 out of 8 is a bit too much. He also said that its was a preliminary grading on Tuesday but after reviewing the dings they were corrected

  2. If I know the NFL, the way they will remedy this is to restrict reporting of crew performance to just the individuals as much as possible. That way they can hide behind the wall of ignorance and do whatever they want with playoff assignments. After all, from their perspective the problem isn’t that who was assigned to work the game wasn’t the most qualified. Their big problem is that NFL refs aren’t keeping quiet, so they will put a stop to that one way or another.

    Ray Anderson sounds just like the NFL’s Baghdad Bob, assuring us that all is well while Roger and Company seek to impose his will on every facet of the game. As per usual, he and the other NFL talking heads have been evasive throughout this process.

  3. This has ZERO to do with black/white–had Mike Carey been assigned, there would be no discussion on this subject whatsoever. When a referee gets on the mic and states, “the defense lineded up over the center”, and “perf-nal foul”, he should work nothing over and above the Pro Bowl since flags are at a minimum in that game anyhow. How Cam Newton can angrily make contact with an official over a no-call and not be automatically kicked out of the game is beyond comprehension–that’s at LEAST one ding (not to mention the lack of a roughing call should’ve been a second). Unfortunately, the moderator did not ask Ray Anderson why a Super Bowl assignment could be offered when Boger has only had 2 postseason assignments in the last 5 years

  4. @Lance … I have heard that the non-call for roughing the passer is definitely a ding, but none of my sources could recall which game it was from. Could you tell me when that happened?

  5. Hey, Ben. The game you were wondering about re-Cam Newton roughing the passer and bumping the official was Christmas week, so…. Sun. Dec. 23, 2012.

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