Calling all football fans! Aren’t you glad the NFL referee lockout is over? Even if you aren’t a football fan, it’d be safe to assume you’re pleased with the final outcome. You can now safely browse Facebook or Twitter without seeing your feed clogged with complaints about the NFL referee fiasco.
If you weren’t living under a rock in the past month, you probably knew about the NFL referee lockout which took place at the beginning of the season. In a nutshell, the NFL proposed pension freezes, reduced contributions to 401(k) plans and other financial disputes we need not go into. NFL referees (who are unionzed) refused to agree to the NFL’s terms, so the NFL locked its doors to the union officials. In the meantime, the NFL hired non-union substitute referees. Then, the horrible play calls began.
As you can imagine, the inexperienced substitute refs were doing a medicocre job at best. However, the problem hit an all new low when what some call “the worst call in NFL history” took place on Sept. 24, 2012 around 9 p.m. PDT. Within minutes, media exploded and folks raged via social media, even President Obama got in on the action.
As I sat there on that fateful evening, shocked that such an egregiously bad call could be made made, my next thought was, “How in the world is the NFL going to handle what just happened?” As a PR professional my first thought was how the NFL might handle this debacle with the public. Let’s be honest, the referees already had issues prior to this call. However, this call was made on a national scale, Monday Night Football. There was nowhere for the league to hide.
The NFL managed to use social media in all the wrong ways when they later posted a picture of the questionable play on its Facebook page. The image implied the bad call was in fact not a bad call at all, as the caption read, “Seattle wins on Hail Mary.” The image fueled the fire and thousands of fans left negative comments on the picture. The NFL quickly took the image down.
(Courtesy of SB Nation)
The next morning the NFL released a statement claiming an offensive pass interference call was missed. However, they stood by their referees’ final call (mind you, one referee called an interception while the other called a touchdown, as shown below).
Clearly, the NFL was facing a crisis. A crisis that, thanks to social media, was threatening the NFL’s reputation at lightning speed. Two days after the online uproar over the playcalling during the game, the NFL settled the dispute with its regular officials. Those officials were placed back on the field by Thursday night, with a warm welcome.
Without social media, would the NFL have reached an agreement so quickly? Fox sportscaster, Jim Gray, doesn’t think so. Let us know what you think.back