NEW YORK: The National Football League reached out to fans through mainstream and social media as it faced backlash against its ruling during the final play of Monday's game between the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers.
In a statement released Tuesday to mainstream media outlets, the NFL admitted its officials made an error in Monday night's call, but stood by the game's result. The NFL also shared the statement on its Facebook and Twitter pages, said Michael Signora, VP of football communications for the league.
The NFL declined to comment further on the game or referee lockout.
“While the ball is in the air, [Seattle wide receiver Golden] Tate can be seen shoving Green Bay cornerback Sam Shields to the ground. This should have been a penalty for offensive pass interference, which would have ended the game. It was not called and is not reviewable in instant replay,” the statement read.
“The NFL Officiating Department reviewed the video today and supports the decision not to overturn the on-field ruling following the instant replay review. The result of the game is final.”
Football fans turned to social media to express outrage over the referees' ruling that Green Bay's apparent interception was a touchdown for Seattle, costing the Packers the game. Coaches, players, and fans have criticized NFL's use of replacement referees, most of whom are experienced only in lower levels of college football, amidst the referee lockout.
The NFL locked out the regular refs in June after they were unable to reach an agreement over a new contract. It is the first time the league has used replacements since 2001. The NFL and NFL Referees Association resumed negotiations Tuesday to attempt to resolve the labor dispute.
Patrick Wixted, VP of sports and entertainment at Ketchum, said the NFL needs to do a better job of communicating with fans about the lockout.
“There needs to be more transparency. During the players lockout [in 2011], both sides did a great job of keeping the fans informed as to what exactly was going on, and perhaps it's time to do the same in this situation,” Wixted added. “[Monday night] was the pinnacle of frustration that has been building the past few weeks. The integrity of this game hangs in the balance.”
Despite ongoing frustration among players and fans, the NFL's ratings were up 8% Sunday night compared with the same time last year. Football fans are unlikely to stop watching NFL games because of the lockout, said Kenneth Wisnefski, founder and CEO of online marketing company WebiMax.
“The [NFL] brand is so strong it's superseding officials at this point,” Wisnefski said. “The league has done a good job of improving the game and getting more people viewing it. They've helped turn football into more of an event. So even though people are irritated, I can guarantee there will be very few people out there not watching the game.”