The Power Should Lie with the Referees

by Jessica Golding ’11

Big hits: the most exciting, fear-evoking, suspenseful, wonder-striking moments in the National Football League. You can hear them from anywhere inside the stadium; you can see them clearly on the television screen; you can almost feel their impact. Though a huge part of football’s legacy, big hits have ironically taken a “hit” this NFL season. Roger Goodell, commissioner of the league, and the rest of the NFL administration implemented harsher punishments against helmet-first hits.

The rules, finalized over the 2010 offseason, “prohibit a player from launching himself off the ground and using his helmet to strike a player in a defenseless posture in the head or neck,” according to the NFL. These regulations will protect all players on the field, not just receivers like past years. With this new rule, guilty players will usually be fined or suspended after the game by the NFL; however, referees do have the power to eject players from the game where the excessive roughness occurred.

By far the most-talked-about sports controversy this fall, the issue over these helmet-first hits rose to attention as football-related concussions receive more awareness.

Although many of the players, coaches and fans are speaking out in frustration over these new rules, the NFL had no choice but to do something because players are stronger than ever and hitting harder than ever. It would be dealing with more scrutiny now had it not taken some sort of action against this concussion epidemic.

Players need to be better protected on the field at the moment an inappropriate hit occurs. Referees should be expelling players who make flagrant, dangerous hits during the game, not after. Athletes need to receive immediate consequences to truly shape football into a safer sport.

Currently when a player is suspended for flagrant play, future teams in his team’s schedule reap the benefits of that punishment. However, the opposing team physically affected by the flagrant play still suffers their losses while getting no benefits whatsoever, except for maybe a relatively insignificant 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness. If players are thrown out during the game then the team that has suffered is able to benefit, and rightfully so.

And in order to make sure that the referees are not overstepping their power on the field or making inappropriate calls with these hits, they should be allowed to stop the clock and review the hit to correctly make a call on whether the player in question should be ejected.

Although referees have been given the power to eject a player from the game for hits deemed too rough, these referees have been trained to use that power as a last resort. In order to get fast results, players and coaches must accept the fact that there is a zero-tolerance policy as these flagrant hits occur in the specific games that they occur in. There needs to be a strong message that players will get ejected from games.

Some believe that these new regulations will not only limit big hits, but will destroy football altogether. Yet, this will not be the case. Football still can have hits that the fans love- just hits safer for the players.

Furthermore, it must be acknowledged that while the NFL is installing stricter restrictions against hits, the entire league is making millions per week off these big hits. Teams earn their money through ticket and TV revenues where people come to see that hard-hitting nature of the NFL, while the NFL administration makes good money off DVDs showing historic hits, including the DVD named “Moments of Impact.”

The NFL justifies their actions for players’ safety, yet the NFL is in the process of adding two more games to the regular season, two more weeks the players can get injured.

No matter how much these new regulations irritate NFL personnel or how much money the NFL makes off this hard-hitting sport, the fact remains that players are getting concussions now more than ever in professional football. Players need to be protected; who else is better for this job than the referees of the game that firsthand see these hits as they come?