by Aubrey Bruce, For New Pittsburgh Courier
The 2022 season for the Pittsburgh Steelers as well as many of their fellow combatants has concluded. Missed tackles, interceptions, fumbles and blocked kicks are just a few of the errors that prematurely ended the campaigns of many NFL teams. However, penalties such as holding, false starts, pass interference, and unsportsmanlike conduct are just a few of the violations called during a competition that have sent many combatants home to the recliner to cry into their Bud Light, Coors Light or whatever brand of suds that provide comfort for them.
But alas, there is another insidious and sometimes premeditated factor that becomes the sculptor of the “clay of competition.” That factor is officiating. Referees are supposedly provided to monitor the combatants to keep the sometimes-bloodthirsty combatants from morphing into paid “assassins.” However, we must ask ourselves the 1-billion-dollar question. Have the men who are hired to monitor the game morphed into the “assassins” of the integrity of the game? The effect of inadequate, incompetent, and downright biased officiating has become a toxin and sometimes has become venomous when certain officials abandon objectivity when policing the competition. Many officiants may become soldiers of subjectivity when called upon to render fair and unbiased opinions about violations committed by players during competition based solely upon their actions, not the amount of melanin or lack thereof contained in their skin. There are times when racial bias doesn’t even apply. Officials sometimes just do not like certain players and are sometimes just waiting to throw a flag against them.
Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Joey Bosa has recently taken issue with questionable officiating. Here is what Bosa recently had to say about the current state of officiating. “If (the refs) blow a call that ruins an entire team’s season, they get to —they’re probably back in the locker room after the game, like, ‘Ha, got that a–hole. You know, yeah, got him. Fifteen yards. What a loser.’ I guarantee you that’s what they’re f—ing talking back in the back. Whatever, power trip. I’m sick of those f—ing people.”
Wow Joey, say how you really feel. It might be a bit harsh, but I can guarantee you my grandmother’s last pork chop that many NFL players, especially players of color, are a silent majority that feel exactly the same way Bosa does. After James Harrison, the former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker, put a few players to sleep, it was alleged by Harrison and a fellow Baltimore Ravens combatant, Terrell Suggs, that Harrison was being targeted not for actual violations but for his aggressive personality and style of play.
In a 2010 Associated Press article, the headline was, “Linebacker says NFL targeting him.”
Here is an excerpt from that article: “Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison promises he’s not changing his aggressive style of play, even if the NFL and his own coach agree he must. Harrison believes he is being unfairly targeted for hard hits that have drawn $125,000 in fines for four infractions since mid-October. His own teammates and at least one Baltimore Ravens player, linebacker Terrell Suggs, argued Wednesday the league is focusing extra and possibly unwarranted attention on any Harrison hit. ‘Your guy over there, No. 92 (Harrison), I think he is red-flagged,’ Suggs said during a conference call with Pittsburgh reporters. “The referees are kind of looking for him. Even if he breathes on a quarterback wrong, he might get a flag. … I think they are looking at him more closely than they are everybody else in the league.’”
In my opinion, this behavior is just a continuation of the systemic racism that exists in sports officiating just as there is systemic racism that exists in every other facet of American life. Do you think that an individual that is a cross-burner in private does not apply that belief in other indirect ways throughout every aspect of their life? If an individual calls a biased and unwarranted penalty against a player, that is the equivalent of a cross-burning in the workplace. From MLB legends like the late Jackie Robinson and Frank Robinson, to Dusty Baker (who just won a World Series with the Houston Astros), they’ve all acknowledged that overt bias in officiating has and continues to exist in sports. The NFL even had asinine and stupid rules against “excessive” celebrating. Maybe if a few of these power players could perform on the field, they would not be so insecure about the players that perform and pay their salaries. Maybe if they were more competent, they could celebrate the right calls a bit more as well. Use instant replay to review every contested call. What in the heck is instant replay for, if certain plays and rules prohibit the use?