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'The Worst Call In NFL History' Could Cost The League Millions

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Sep. 25 2012, Published 11:30 a.m. ET

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By Debbie Emery - Reporter

What has been dubbed the "worst call in NFL history" could cost the league not only the support of their fans and players, but also millions of dollars more than is being argued over in the stand off with the referees.

As previously reported, the crisis in the boardroom turned into mayhem on the field during Monday night's game when the already highly criticized replacement officials ruled that the Seattle Seahawks scored a touchdown in the final seconds of the game, despite numerous replays showing that the Green Bay Packers intercepted the ball.

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In a blatant sign of total confusion, one referee was seen ruling a touchdown, while his colleague stood next to him signaling an interception and the Twitter feed even reported that the Packers won the game in the immediate aftermath.

"The difference between the NFL and the referee union in negotiations is $3.3 million, and I would say the product of football as a brand in America took a much larger hit than that with Monday night's scandal," Michael Bilello, President and CEO at Centurion Strategies, a public relations and marketing agency that handles high-profile athletes, told in an exclusive interview.

"When you have a premium game such as Monday Night Football with the Green Bay Packers playing - and quarterback Aaron Rodgers is about as American as apple pie right now – and everyone is watching this game, there is so much attention on it and sponsors are paying more to advertise - there is a lot at stake!

"There are two sides here, you have got the league against the refs’ union, and the fans are stuck in the middle," explained Bilello. "The collateral damage when there is a crisis such as this impacts everybody’s bottom line, from the players and advertisers to the people working the concession stand.

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"There should be a higher standard for all sports and a mistake like this is unacceptable. Certainly you would think with the advent of technology, these officials should be conferencing on a call like that? One guy signaled interception and another signaled touchdown, it should have been meticulously reviewed afterwards," marveled Bilello.

On Tuesday, the NFL ate a huge slice of humble pie by admitting that the Green Bay Packers should have won the game, but that the blown end zone call by the replacements wasn't reviewable.

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"This should have been a penalty for offensive pass interference, which would have ended the game," the NFL said in a statement. "It was not called and is not reviewable in instant replay. The result of the game is final."

The Seahawks won 14-12 after replacement officials gave possession of a disputed pass to Seattle receiver Golden Tate. The controversial decision that has now sparked a fire storm withstood video review of footage that appeared to show that Tate had just one arm on the ball while Packers defensive back M.D. Jennings had both hands wrapped around it and pulled tightly into his chest.

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Adding fuel to the fire is footage of Tate shoving a Packers defender in the back before going for the ball, a move that would normally draw an offensive pass interference penalty.

Disgusted by the ruling, the Packers stormed off the field only to have to return 10 minutes later because NFL regulations necessitate that the defense be there when an extra point is attempted after the touchdown.

"You can look at this as a microcosm and it seems to be a very similar theme to other industries in America," explained crisis expert Bilello. "You’ve got the big corporate guy and you’ve got the union. The sides are going to be picked, you’re either pro-union or pro-corporate person in terms of which side you support.

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"I am a fan of common sense and common sense says that if you want to protect your product and ensure that safety truly is at the precipice of all you do – the fans, the players, the league deserves nothing but the very best in terms of officiating."

In an era powered by Twitter and Facebook, such a huge guffaw hit the Internet within seconds of the blown call, with not only millions of fans vowing they were going to quit watching football, but also a Wisconsin state senator even reportedly tweeting NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's phone number online.

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"Social media is a multiplier when you are talking about damage to a brand," explained Bilello. "Back in the old days, a bad call was discussed around the water cooler or at the bar, then everyone went on their daily business.

"Today, there is an immediate feedback with people making the correct call so you have to make sure you have your very best officials are ruling on your premium games, because you know that people are going to be scrutinizing them.

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"For the sake of the fans and the sport, common sense needs to prevail and someone needs to belly up to the table and have active and constant negotiations until this can be alleviated so it will never happen again," he advised.

"The fans lose out the most in this situation, they buy into this product because it’s been the standard for a very long time, and they are loyal. We saw a lockout recently with the league against the players, we’ve seen player scandals such as Bounty-gate. All these things adversely impact the game, right or wrong, which then impacts the product.

"There is only so many times that can happen before, the consumer walks away," Bilello warned.


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