Replacements had big fan impact

Updated: September 27, 2012, 5:41 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Fans say the replacement officials had a negative impact on the NFL's reputation and would have had an effect on how much football they watched, according to a survey conducted before the lockout ended Wednesday.

In a telephone poll of 1,443 fans by ESPN and Global Strategy, more than 76 percent gave the officiating poor marks.

Also, more than 50 percent of the fans said calls made by the replacements during the first three weeks of the season were "a complete embarrassment" and at least half of the fans said they would haved watched less NFL football because of the officiating.

The biggest blunder of the officiating occurred in Monday night's game between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks. In one of the most bizarre finishes in NFL history, Golden Tate was awarded a disputed touchdown catch on the game's final play to give Seattle a 14-12 victory. According to the poll, 78 percent of the fans said the wrong call was made.

The call became a rallying point for players, coaches and fans frustrated with the replacement officials working regular season games. Every football pundit in the country has given their take on the final play. Even President Barack Obama and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney have expressed their views on Tate's TD and the replacement officials.

Perhaps sparked by that outcry, the NFL and the officials' union announced at midnight Thursday that a tentative eight-year agreement had been reached to end a lockout that began in June.

Without prompting, the president's spokesman on Thursday applauded news of a deal between that the National Football League and the referees' union.

Obama spokeman Jay Carney said: "The president's very pleased that the two sides have come together," and he added, "It's a great day for America."

Main points from the poll of fans included the following:

•  A large majority of the fans were aware of the lockout.

•  At least three quarters of fans gave replacement refereeing negative marks.

•  More than half of the fans said the calls were embarrassing.

•  Few fans blamed the refs, most blamed the NFL.

•  Half of the fans said they would watch less football if the situation continued into the season.

•  74 percent of fans report the lockout had a "negative impact" on their opinion of the NFL's reputation, including 29 percent who say it has had a "very negative impact."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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