The NFL Referees Association released a statement Thursday saying any claims of biased officiating are "irresponsible and baseless" and noted the allegations "lack important context."
NFLRA executive director Scott Green made the comments, per ESPN.com, which are likely in response to negative reactions to the way referee Pete Morelli and his crew called last Thursday's game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium.
"Claims like these demonstrate a fundamental lack of knowledge about NFL officiating," he said. "NFL officials are graded on every call made in every game. Missing a single one can hurt his or her ranking and may be the difference between working in the postseason or not."
The Eagles racked up 10 penalties for 126 yards in their 28-23 road victory over the Panthers. Carolina registered a single penalty for one yard in the contest.
Philadelphia fan Will Philbrick started a Change.org petition directed toward NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in response to the large disparity in calls last week:
"NFL referee Pete Morelli has a clear and statistically obvious bias against the Philadelphia Eagles. Over the last four games that he has officiated that the Eagles were playing in, the Eagles were flagged a total of 40 times for 396 yards, while the Eagles opponent in those games were flagged a mere 8 times for 74 yards. This is unacceptable and puts the Philadelphia Eagles at a disadvantage. Preventing Morelli from refereeing Eagles games will result in a more trustworthy and honest NFL. This will benefit the entire league and keep all claims of conspiracy to a normal level."
The petition had received over 70,000 signatures as of Thursday afternoon.
Green asserted in the NFLRA statement merely looking at the total number of penalties called against a specific team doesn't provide all of the necessary information.
"This relies solely on end-of-game statistics, which are not an accurate picture of the game's called penalties. It fails to take into account that some penalties that are called are declined," he said. "Conversely, not all penalty yardage is equal. Team A may be assessed 30 penalty yards via six separate five-yard fouls, but Team B could be assessed 30 yards through one pass interference penalty."
Green concluded: "NFL officials are committed to upholding the integrity of the game and do so every week."
Cameron Filipe of Football Zebras pointed out Morelli and his crew are off in Week 7.
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