Here's the admission that NFL fans, players, coaches and personnel have been waiting for.
According to CBS Sports' Will Brinson, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has issued a public apology regarding the officiating by the replacement referees through the first three weeks of the 2012 NFL season.
Inside Goodell's apology is this short blurb, which appears to be the only real apology of the email:
"I believe in accountability, not excuses. And I regret we were not able to secure an agreement sooner in the process and avoid the unfortunate distractions to the game. You deserve better."
Yes, NFL fans do deserve better.
The integrity of the entire NFL was in jeopardy starting with Week 1 of the preseason and ending with the Monday Night Football debacle in which replacement referees stole a victory from the Green Bay Packers.
Goodell also addressed the future of the NFL (via CBS Sports):
All of us who love the sport appreciate the skills and dedication of the players and coaches. That is why we are focused not just on what happens on the field but what our game will be like in another decade or two. The NFL has always tried to look ahead, to innovate, and to constantly improve in all we do.
As long as the real, experienced referees are officiating, the future does look bright for the NFL.
Thursday night's matchup between the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens showed the immense difference between the replacements and the professional referees.
They called a clean game without error, much to the pleasure of the fans, who greeted the refs with a standing ovation (h/t ESPN).
The Commissioner closed his email by thanking the fans:
We are moving forward with the finest officials in sports back on the field. It's time to put the focus where it belongs – on the clubs and players and our magnificent game, with a special thanks to our fans for their passion.
Goodell's apology comes off as sincere, but most fans likely still blame him for the fiasco in the first place, since he was the one responsible for locking out the real referees after labor negotiations went sour.
The biggest problem I have with the email is that the words "I'm sorry" are nowhere to be found in the memo. The lockout of the official referees is no one else's fault but the commissioner, yet he didn't have the respect to sincerely apologize to fans, as Brinson pointed out on his Twitter page.
For now, anyone associated with the NFL is happy to see the replacement referees begging for their Lingerie Football League jobs back, but make no mistake about it: Roger Goodell's NFL shield has indeed been dented.
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