Are NFL Replacement Officials Fixing Football Games?
If you will, put on your tin foil hats with me for a few minutes. We are about to get into some serious match fixing conspiracy theorizing right now. You've been warned.
Following the mess that transpired on Monday Night Football, I was angry for multiple reasons. First, I am one of those people that care about the integrity of sports from an officiating standpoint. I feel like the players should be given a level, accurate playing field to compete on and that screw ups by referees shouldn't be possible with tweaks to instant replay systems in every sport.
I was also angry because I had taken the Packers -2.5 points in a football pool with some friends, and it cost me a win toward my season total, of which the highest number of wins at the end of the year wins a prize of some sort. The refs in that game could have screwed me out of that prize at the end of the year on Monday night.
Now, imagine putting up big money on the game and having that happen to you? Well, according to the estimations of some bookmakers and gambling insiders, that botched final call shifted anywhere between $150 million to $1 billion in bets, with the majority of that money being bet on the Packers going from people's pockets to the house.
Allow me to clarify before continuing, gambling isn't exactly the best way to make money, and it is inherently risky, so I don't exactly feel sympathy for those who were hurt by the game's ending (I do, however, applaud one sportsbook for refunding non-American bettors who took the Packers). With that said, the elephant in the room still exists that a large sum of money went from the hands of regular people and into the hands of "Vegas," so to speak, and that always seems fishy.
Then it comes out that the officiating crew that ruined the outcome of Monday Night's game also were the referees for Week Two's controversial ending between the Washington Redskins and St. Louis Rams, where they allowed Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan to bait Redskins wide receiver Josh Morgan without repercussions, until Morgan threw the ball at Finnegan after a play, which cost the Redskins a chance at making a game tying field goal.
One horrible officiating fiasco is a mistake. Two horrible officiating fiascos will raise eyebrows. Is it possible that this particular officiating crew is fixing NFL games? Let's learn a little bit more Lance Easley, the referee who signaled touchdown on the final play of Monday's game.
Easley is a full time banker, according to a profile on him by the Daily News, who has no experience refereeing in the professional ranks or at the top of college football. In their article, they describe a coach at a junior college near his California home whose games Easley officiated mentioning that he stood out very little.
As if that wasn't bad enough, Lingerie Football League commissioner Mitch Mortaza has came out confirming that refs who were discharged from his league are among those who have been chosen as replacement officials.
It has gotten so bad that former NBA referee Tim Donaghy, who was fixing basketball games, has came out in a recent interview and said that the league has an issue with integrity.
Now, let me ask you a question: if a banker, who probably doesn't make a ton of money, was approached by someone who ran a sports book and offered, say, $500,000 out of that $150 million that swung on the final play of Monday's game to make a few crucial calls late in a game to make sure that money definitely was going to the house, wouldn't it be entirely plausible that that banker-turned-official would take the money and do it? Wouldn't you at least consider it if you were put in their shoes?
By no means am I saying that these replacement officials are definitely rigging football games. However, after considering their economic situations, the amount of money that could be at stake, and the lack of integrity they have brought to the NFL already, I'm just saying that I wouldn't be surprised if it came out that the NFL's replacement officials were fixing NFL games.