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NFL tells teams to stop abusing officials

The NFL, in an attempt to protect its officials, sent a memo to all teams on Monday warning of “significant” punishment if players and coaches continue to physically and verbally abuse officials.

According to ESPN’s Kevin Seifert, Troy Vincent, NFL executive vice president of football operations, wrote, “In recent weeks, however, there have been several suspensions and ejections because of contact with, and conduct toward, our game officials. This is not who we are — as players, as clubs, as the NFL.”

Scott Green, executive director of the NFL Referees Association, issued a statement to the media, “We appreciate the League expressing its concerns to all Clubs about abusive actions, both verbal and physical, toward officials. We would expect that any future actions will be met with appropriate and severe punishment.”  

There have been several high-profile ejections this year due to fights and fouls against officials. In some of the fights, the officials have ejected players for shoving officials to the ground. Side judge Laird Hayes hurt his ribs when Gabe Jackson shoved Hayes out of the way to participate in a fight. Jackson was ejected but not suspended. Sources tell Football Zebras that Hayes and other officials were upset that Jackson was not suspended for what they felt was a deliberate action.

The NFL did suspend Marshawn Lynch for running onto the field and pushing an official out of the way so he could participate in a fight.

Player ejections in the 2017 season

Officials have been quick to flag players and coaches who verbally abuse officials. Coaches are not immune from the flag either.

Also, there is a growing concern among officials that players are playing through officials to get to a play. Officials do their best to get out of the way, and sometimes things happen where they get knocked down. But, it is very dangerous for players to knock an official down in order to get to a play or a fight. Browns offensive tackle Shon Coleman was fined $30,387 for a hit to umpire Jeff Rice (below), although there was no flag since the crew’s attention was on a loose ball. Coleman says that he was trying to dodge Rice, but  players need to be more responsible.

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Football is a violent and emotional game. It is hard sometimes to turn the switch off after the whistle. Officials are taught to diffuse situations. But when players insist on verbally abusing and physically contacting officials to argue or manhandling an official out of the way during a fight, the flag comes out. While it may look amusing or harmless on video, the officials do not have padding or helmets to protect them

We’ll see if the teams take the NFL memo to heart.

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Mark Schultz
Mark Schultz is a high school football official, freelance writer and journalist. He first became interested in officiating when he was six years old, was watching a NFL game with his father and asked the fateful question, "Dad, what are those guys in the striped shirts doing?"

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4 thoughts on “NFL tells teams to stop abusing officials

  1. This is a bogus letter without a corresponding letter that holds officials responsible for their bad calls, no calls, bias calls and inconsistency. If officials were held responsible for their screw ups (which are plenty this year) the NFL would not have to demand respect players and coaches would give it automatically. The NFL should demand the same respect for honesty, consistency and ethiCal behavior out of it’s officials that it demands from others. If the officials continue on as they have this year then there is really no other place for them than the WWE.

  2. Dear Guest. Your command of the English language and your ability to make well thought out coherent replies is truly awe inspiring.

  3. Glad I can inspire folks like you. In between your janitor job and your gas attendant job, you should go try to officiate youth league or junior high games. Instead of sitting on the couch and bitching and moaning. No clue what goes into it….

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