NFL referees deny bias allegations amid fan uproar after Eagles-Panthers game

The NFL Referees Association on Thursday said it “strongly denounces” allegations that its officials are exhibiting bias during games.

“Claims like these demonstrate a fundamental lack of knowledge about NFL officiating,” NFLRA Executive Director Scott Green said in a statement. “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.”

While the NFLRA did not comment on specific allegations, the statement was released days after a referee crew headed by Pete Morelli drew widespread criticism for its handling of last Sunday’s game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Carolina Panthers. The officiating crew called 10 penalties on the Eagles worth a total of 126 yards, compared to just one penalty for one yard against the Panthers.

The yardage disparity was one of the largest in NFL history, according to multiple reports. Still, the Eagles won the game, 28-23.

Eagles fans lashed out at the officiating crew after the game. A petition calling for Morelli to be banned from officiating Eagles games due to “clear and statistically obvious bias” has received nearly 72,000 signatures as of Thursday.

“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,” wrote Will Phillbrick, the fan who started the petition.

The NFLRA said critics failed to consider the context of the penalty calls and noted that claims that a certain crew is biased fail “to consider the reality that crews are made up of different officials each season.”

“These recent attempts to sensationalize statistics and create click-bait headlines lack important context,” Green said. “Without the proper perspective, the information being pushed is completely misguided.”