It’s not often there’s a good enough excuse to write about the brighter side of the sports world here on the Banter, but on Wednesday, the Washington Post published an interview with Mike Carey, a longtime referee in the NFL, in which he told them that in 2006 he had asked the NFL to not schedule him to officiate Redskins games due to his personal issues involving the name of the team, explaining why he hadn’t refereed a Washington home or away game since then.
And while this won’t make headlines across major outlets across the country, it’s an important next step in the path to making at least one bit of progressive change happen in the NFL. Speaking to the Post‘s Mike Wise, Carey admitted, “It just became clear to me that to be in the middle of the field, where something disrespectful is happening, was probably not the best thing for me,” reminding us that the NFL, despite it’s near impenetrable corporate facade, is made up of humans capable of making human decisions. “Human beings take social stances. And if you’re respectful of all human beings, you have to decide what you’re going to do and why you’re going to do it.”
And while in an ideal world those human decisions involve enough people boycotting Skins games, but even I’ve already bought tickets for a game this season and the Redskins/the NFL know that they’re still a few years away from the tipping point when fans’ outrage means actually money could lost. What makes Carey’s admission so interesting, though, is that it points out how vulnerable the NFL is when it comes to the cogs in the system making their own human decisions and deciding they’ve had enough. That’s why the NFL gave Carey his wish (most likely with an inferred gag clause) so quickly, and that’s why they’re probably terrified others inside NFL organizations have heard that someone made that first move.
Think about it. What if a draft pick or a player in a trade said he wouldn’t play for the Redskins on ethical grounds? What if he sued because of a hostile work environment ? For better or worse, we’re a litigious society, and while it would probably get thrown out you have to admit that that would get Dan Snyder’s ball rolling. Sure this story isn’t sexy enough to make most headlines, but it will be on PTI and it will be on Around The Horn if it hasn’t been already, and the players and the coaches watch that show. It’s on their radar that at least a referee can do it. And in sports, momentum is everything.