BY LEO BARATTA JR.
SC Staff Writer
NFL officials were welcomed back with open arms last Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium, where the Ravens bested the Browns 23-16. The stadium crowd gave a standing ovation as referee Gene Steratore came out for a microphone check before kickoff.
NFL officials agreed to an eight-year contract on Saturday, ending a three-week lockout which prevented the regular NFL officials from officiating games.
The lockout has caused fans, players, and even the President himself to show their frustration over replacement referees.
The first three weeks of the season were filled with many controversial calls, with the most notable being a game-winming touchdown catch by Golden Tate in the Seahawks-Packers game on Monday, September 24.
The play came on a Hail Mary pass from Russell Wilson with the clock running out. The pass appeared to be intercepted by M.D. Jennings of the Packers, but replacement officials called the play a touchdown for the Seahawks, claiming there was simultaneous possession. The game ended with a score of 14-12.
The call immediately caused an uproar among fans. More than one-million Tweets were posted on Twitter about the call, which included Tweets from the players themselves. Drew Brees, quarterback of the New Orleans Saints, Tweeted, “I love this league and love the game of football, but tonight’s debacle hurts me greatly. This is NOT the league we’re supposed to represent.” Even President Barack Obama expressed his thoughts through Twitter. The Tuesday after the controversial call in the Packers-Seahawks match-up, President Obama Tweeted, “NFL fans on both sides of the aisle hope the refs’ lockout is settled soon.” After the negative reaction following the call, the NFL and the referees’ union resumed talks on a new deal.
A tentative deal was reached at midnight on Thursday, September 25, which allowed the regular officials to make their debut on Thursday Night Football. The deal was then ratified the following Saturday with an overwhelming 112-5 vote by the officials.
During the coin toss of the Ravens-Browns Thursday night match-up, Gene Steratore told fans, “It’s good to be back.”
With the lockout ending, NFL referees had never been more popular. However, when the games started and questionable calls were once again made, the boos came roaring back.
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