By USA TODAY
Within minutes of Monday night's final-play debacle in Seattle, in which Seahawks WR Golden Tate was ruled to have caught the game-winning touchdown despite what seemed to be an interception by Green Bay Packers S M.D. Jennings, players from around the NFL were unloading their angst via strongly worded, and sometimes vulgar, tweets.
The NFL Players Association as a whole is just as upset about this call and many others by the replacement officials that have preceded it.
Unfortunately for them, there's not much they can do about it and refusing to play isn't an option.
"The thing we're going to continue to focus on right now is the fact we didn't create this mess. So to ask us to fix it is somewhat misplaced," NFLPA assistant executive director for external affairs George Atallah told USA TODAY Sports by phone Tuesday morning. "We didn't make the decision to lock the officials out, we didn't make the decision to use substandard replacements, we didn't make the decision to put the integrity of the game at risk. So to turn around and ask the players to do something about it is not really the right solution here."
The union issued a statement this past weekend via a memo to the league stating the owners "have failed in your obligation to provide as safe a working environment as possible." After Monday night's controversy, the question is also about the fairness of the working environment.
The NFLPA has consulted with the NFL Referees Association during the lockout but hasn't participated in any negotiations. Per the collective bargaining agreement ratified last year, they're not permitted to strike under any terms other than the security of their union.
In short, one year after a vicious labor battle, the players only have the power of their voices on this one.
"Strongly worded statements are fine," Atallah said when asked what more can be done, adding: "And at this point, the league's got to make a decision and the owners have to make a decision -- are they willing to continue to trade or risk the integrity of the game for what amounts to really not that much money?"
At that point, Atallah watched a replay of Tate's, um, touchdown for the first time.
"Oh my gosh," he said. "This is ridiculous."
That's what the players have said, in so many words.
"The one thing I'll add to that is it's hard enough for a head coach, assistant coaches and the players to do their respective jobs," Atallah said. "It's hard enough for a quarterback or a cornerback or a defensive lineman to do his job on the field and focus on his job in the game. They shouldn't be responsible for officiating and making sure the integrity of the game is maintained on behalf of the officials."
Asked about the responsibility the union has to the players, Atallah said, "It's just making sure we get them the right information on what we believe is the right approach. We keep our leadership apprised of what's going on with the negotiations as much as we can without breaching confidentiality, but in terms of support or control or anything like that, they have said everything we could possibly have said about the embarrassment on this issue.
"And really the only thing we can continue to do is monitor any serious health and safety issues that come up."