Sports Law Blog
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Friday, December 18, 2015
 
United States v. Klein and NFL Officiating

I no longer watch football, particularly the NFL; the league is just too corrupt and the sport just too gladiatorial for my taste. But I cannot avoid news stories related to the league. I was interested in the league's announcement this week that, in the wake of increasing criticism of the game officiating this season (that may or may not be justified), game officials would be in contact the league vice president of officiating during games about replay and other "administrative" matters. This has sparked concerns among many, including the former VP of officiating, about the lack of accountability and increase in uncertainty from having a league official whispering into the ref's earpiece. One former official worried that we could not know whether a changed call was because the game officials got together or because "someone in New York doesn't like the call." As another former official said, "what it looks like is that the league office is making decisions on who possibly wins or loses the game."

The last concern sounds in the sports-officiating equivalent of United States v. Klein (which returns to SCOTUS later this term with a case challenging a law that may actually be unconstitutional): Just as Congress cannot dictate specific decisions or outcomes in specific cases, the NFL should not be telling officials what calls to make or how to apply the rulebook on specific plays in a specific game.





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