A reader brought to our attention an interview of replacement referee Lance Easley by James Brown on yesterday’s NFL Today show on CBS. I’m a fan of JB’s interviewing style and he packed quite a bit into the seven or eight minute sit-down.
Easley is the referee who made the controversial touchdown call at the end of the Seattle Seahawks game against the Green Bay Packers a couple of weeks ago. Obviously the bulk of the interview was a pretty technical discussion of why Easley made the call and why the review process went as it did.
We also learn about Easley’s background and the training he received to be a replacement referee. We learn what wasn’t covered in his training, too. Interestingly enough, Easley stands behind his call without any reservation. But it was this portion of the interview that caused a reader to bring it to our attention:
Brown: That week you were arguably the most vilified man in America. I mean, the amount of vitriol and antagonism being spewed your way was just pretty intense incivility, if you will, in the public arena. How did you and your family deal with all of that?
Easley: I wanted to come out and let people know I’m OK, that this is a part of the deal. Officials, the guys that are out there now, any official, we understand that going in. It’s not a popular place to be in to begin with.
I’m very supported by my family, by my church, by people in the community who know me and have known me for years. I’m a former college coach, I’ve been involved in the game since I was a child, and people know that I’m a person of character, and I did the best job I could.
But having said all that, I’m not entirely sure a follow-up asking for more specifics would have been a journalistic choice I would have made. Given the limited amount of time, and the focus of the program, I think JB was probably wise to move onto a general question about replacement referees being in a tough spot:
Brown: Do you think you guys, replacement officials as a group, were placed in an untenable position from the very beginning. because you would be placed under a harsh spotlight.
Easely: It was a very difficult situation, it wasn’t like a win-win. It was a difficult situation. We all took it on. We were concerned about the opportunity for other Americans to be working during those seven weeks. You think about the jobs, the people taking the tickets, the restaurateurs, all those people. By trade I’m a small business banker. I want to see our economy grow. I went out and did my job. I’m a football guy, and I’m very pleased and happy and enjoyed the whole ride.
Now, that question and answer may or may not have a religion ghost. But I thought it interesting that so many of the stories about replacement referees were in the context of crossing a picket line. I hadn’t even thought for a moment about how many other jobs were riding on football games being played. I’m not saying that JB’s question was tough enough, given these dueling narratives, but I wish we’d see more discussion of values, religious or otherwise, when talking about economic decisions or foreign policy decisions (drone strikes, torture, etc.). It’s just a good reminder to be attuned to the reality that a healthy unveiling of values can strike at any time, given the right opportunity.