The league’s stand-in referees have angered players, coaches, and the media, and Twitter provides a convenient outlet for the airing of grievances.
Win or lose, NFL football players are fed up about the replacement referees who have been hired to stand in for professional refs during an ongoing labor dispute with the league, and they want their Twitter followers to know about it.
After winning a nail biter against the New England Patriots Sunday night, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo flooded Twitter with messages criticizing the league’s replacement refs.
This summer collective bargaining negotiations between the NFL and the NFL Referees Association broke down after the league decided to move the refs’ pension plan “from a defined benefit model to a 401(k),” Forbes reported. As a result, the referees were locked out of the league and replacement referees were brought in for the first time since 2001.
Reactions to the replacement referees from NFL team owners and players have been universally negative, with nearly every play this season coming under scrutiny. Some players have dealt with the lockout diplomatically and have signed a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell imploring him to bring back the professional referees. Others, like Ayanbadejo and Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes, have used Twitter to share their opinions.
“Can someone please tell these fucking zebras foot locker called and they’re needed Back at work !!!!” Spikes tweeted late Monday morning.
According to the league’s official Twitter policy, players are allowed to tweet ”up to 90 minutes before kickoff, and after the game following traditional media interviews.”
In total, 24 penalties were called Sunday during the Patriots-Ravens game—described by the Baltimore Sun as “the worst officiated professional football game ever held at M&T Bank Stadium”— for a total of 218 yards. After the game, Patriots coach Bill Belichick was so fed up with the officiating he stormed the field and grabbed a ref to try and get an explanation regarding the Ravens’ game winning field goal.
“I’m not going to comment about that,” Belichick said after the game. “You saw the game. What did we have, 30 penalties called in the game?”
Any sort of physical contact with referees is prohibited and Belichick will likely face a fine, ESPN reported. There is no word on whether players will be penalized for their tweets.
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