Referees catch a lot of flak, sometimes rightfully so, others because they’re an easy target when things aren’t necessarily going your way in a game. Rarely, though, do they get blamed for the kinds of things that the Washington Redskins were accusing them of after their loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Skins’ veteran offensive lineman Trent Williams told CSN Washington that he was verbally harassed by umpire Roy Ellison towards the end of the first half of Sunday’s game:
When you have a ref come to you, while you’re at the line about to run a play and call you …excuse my language, but a, ‘Garbage ass, disrespectful mother-fucker. To me, this is a player’s league. I just don’t think there’s no room for that, for you [to] have to take that from the [opposing] team and the refs. I think it’s very unprofessional. It sucks. I’m at a loss for words. You never expect that, as a player going into the game, to have to beef with the refs also.
“Psychologically,” Williams added, “you can’t play the refs. At the end of the day, they have the last call. I never disrespected him the way he disrespected me.”
For a league that’s already in the middle of a bullying situation involving an expanding cast of characters in Miami, another bullying incident has to be at the top of the list of things that they don’t want to have added to their plates right now. (But to put the two instances on the same level as one another would be absolutely ridiculous, to clear that up right away.)
Reporters followed league protocol for tracking down game officials to obtain a comment on controversial calls or situations that occurred over the course of the day, but Walt Coleman, the referee who serves as the spokesman for his crew, didn’t really give much of an explanation to Michael Phillips of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. From CSN Washington:
“The security guard said the officials had left, and they were on a bus about 20 yards away,” Phillips wrote in an email. “I walked over to the bus, and requested to the driver that he ask for Walt Coleman, head referee. Coleman came to the window and asked how he could help me. I repeated Williams’ comments, and asked him to comment on whether that occurred. He said OK, then directed the driver to roll up the window. After the window of the bus was rolled up, it then began driving and left the stadium. No further comment was given.”
Coleman would have none of that.
Honestly, I’m not sure what exactly to make of this accusation. Let’s say Ellison did in fact call Williams a “disrespectful, garbass-ass mother-fucker,” I can’t imagine that he would just call him that for no reason whatsoever. There are two sides to the story, and both ought to be heard before judgment is passed.
As for the professionalism of the situation, I think we’ve all come to know—especially in the last few weeks with the insane amount of coverage the Incognito-Martin situation has received—that the kind of language thrown around in the National Football League is a far cry from what you might hear in a Sunday School classroom. These are grown ass men, participating in an inherently violent sport where insane amounts of testosterone are flowing all over the place, and where bad-mouthing and potty language has existed for years. That’s not to say that it’s OK, but that’s just how it’s been. And I’m hard pressed to believe that this is the first time a ref has ever said anything that would be considered insulting by many, to a player. If you ask me, this is more a result of the growing frustration in the Redskins locker room over how bad they are right now. Being 3-7 a year after claiming their first division title in over a decade is going to weigh down on a lot of guys. That, or Williams has turned into a 320-pound softy that can’t handle a little badmouthing from a man triple his age and a third his size.
And again, to even start the conversation that starts to compare this situation to the one in Miami would be ridiculous. They’re incredibly different in far too many ways to put into words. Still, with the accusations out there, this is something the league will surely look into. The refs wear mics, as do linemen—to “enhance the broadcast”—so the audio of the exchange likely exists and should surface in the next few days.