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NFL must start suspending players and coaches for postgame confrontations with officials

It is not hyperbole to say if the official/player, official/coach relationship erodes into one of disrespect and disdain, the game will unravel and chaos ensues.



Commentary by Mark Schultz

The current NFL rule/fine structure that punishes players and coaches from accosting officials do nothing, and it is time for the NFL to start suspending players and coaches who make it a point to berate officials after the game.

There were two high-profile incidents this weekend where players made it a point to seek out and berate officials after the clock hit zero. The first one was the Buffalo Bills Jerry Hughes going after official Roy Ellison in the tunnel after the game.

Another happened this weekend as Taylor Lewan of the Tennessee Titans made it a point to berate Jerome Boger’s crew as they were running off the field

There could be extenuating circumstances surrounding the Hughes incident and Ellison is on administrative leave while the NFL continues it’s investigation.

Extenuating circumstances or not, the NFL must crack down on postgame abuse of officials.

Why do players wait until after the game to accost the officials? Simple:

  • They do not risk costing their team a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty
  • The officials can’t eject them
  • The fine structure is no deterrent

For many NFL players, a five, 10 or 25-thousand dollar fine does not impact their economic life. Some players set aside a part of their salary to pay NFL fines. The fact that the game is over allows them to get a shot at the officials without fear of harming their team. The fine is insignificant to them.

Fans and media seem to cheer this on. They view this behavior as the players sticking up for themselves or giving the officials some (in their eyes) well-deserved abuse.

I am well-aware that football is an emotional game and officials allow coaches and players the opportunity to vent, within the rules, during the game. That is proper. But, players and coaches must not get in unsportsmanlike shots at officials after time expires.

Officials are a representative of the NFL commissioner. Players must show respect for the position and the person. It is not hyperbole to say if the official-player, official-coach relationship erodes into one of disrespect and disdain, the game will unravel and chaos ensues. Officials must also show respect to the game participants and the NFL has given out consequences when they don’t.

So, what is the only way the NFL can punish unsporting acts against officials after the game?

The NFL must suspend the player for the next game. If a player knows the NFL will suspend them for postgame verbal abuse of officials, the player won’t risk harming their team for the next game. They don’t have to like the official personally or professionally, but they must always respect the official personally and professionally.

I know many fans will disagree with this opinion, thinking that NFL officials do not have enough accountability when they miss calls without fear of reprisal. I would counter that argument with Hugo Cruz.

It is time that the NFL make players ride the pine next week if they continue to abuse the officials after the game.

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?"