Much to the chagrin of the league and its top brass, NFL officiating has come under fire throughout the first few weeks of the season.
There has been strong criticism of NFL referees on a weekly basis, and not just your typical fan complaints on Twitter. We're talking about prominent media personalities challenging the league to fix the problem and players and coaches voicing their opinions publicly.
Just this week, the NFL fined Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield for comments he made about the officiating. Los Angeles Rams linebacker Clay Matthews was also docked for a tweet he made addressing the problem.
According to Pro Football Talk, the league sent out a memo on October 11 to all coaches, GMs, team presidents and chief executives reminding them of the consequences of speaking out about officiating.
PFT has reportedly obtained a copy of the memo as well.
The memo made it clear that the NFL prohibits “[c]riticism of officiating which includes, but is not limited to, the following: Comments regarding the quality of officiating, individual calls or missed calls, the League’s officiating department, an officiating crew, or an individual game official; [a]ccusing game officials of acting with bias or in any way questioning the integrity of NFL game officials; or [p]osting negative or derogatory/demeaning content pertaining to officiating on social media.”
The memo, apparently the second of its kind sent this season, also reminded recipients that "private communications from the league office to individual teams regarding officiating should not be disclosed, that verbal and other non-physical abuse of game officials is prohibited, and that public criticism of opponents or opposing coaches cannot occur."
Of course, the league has to take steps like this. But if the problem remains, coaches and players are going to continue to air their grievances.
It may cost them in their wallets but that's a risk they'll likely be willing to take.