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NBC garbles Carl Cheffers penalty announcements to prevent profanity from airing

Mostly-empty stadiums allow more salty chatter to get broadcast.



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The NFL is doing its best to play a full season during the covid-19 pandemic.

One of the ways the league can get games in is to play in near-empty stadiums. While it is a surreal sight, it also presents challenges for TV sound technicians.

In 2020, when referees open their mics to make a penalty or replay announcement, the stadium is so quiet that the microphone picks up banter from the players that doesn’t pass television network standards.

For years, NFL officials have worked hard to keep salty language from getting on the air, but it is usually officials censoring themselves.

An open referee microphone is an ever present danger

But with silent stadia and noisy sidelines — and TV microphones everywhere — audiences are getting an R-rated treat this season.

So, during Week 11, NBC decided to put its broadcast on a delay and censor (“dump” in TV parlance), any foul language before it reached the airwaves. You can hear it in the following announcement. As Carl Cheffers’ open mic picks up player profanity. NBC swings into action.

What is interesting is that TV and radio crews have several microphones all over the stadium. Those mics give listeners and viewers the flavor of what it is like to be there at the game. Over the years, whose mics have broadcast several “s” and “f” bombs — sometimes chanted in unison by fans.

Networks have employed the seven-second delay on primetime and marquee afternoon games for some time. Many times the announcers’ audio stays on while the ambient sound track is muted, making it hardly noticeable. But when the referee’s microphone is picking up the unvarnished field-level talk, it can’t be separated.

So, when you watch referees make their announcements going forward, see if the announcement is garbled. If so, someone said something naughty on the field.

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?"