CINCINNATI – Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan mixed two great American sports, politics and football, in a town-hall meeting here on Tuesday when he took the NFL’s replacement referees to task over a controversial call in Monday night’s game between the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks.
“Give me a break. It is time to get the real refs,” Ryan said of the replacement referees’ decision to call a touchdown for the Seahawks after Packers cornerback N.D. Jennings appeared to intercept the ball, causing a 10-minute delay to review and then uphold the call. The decision cost the Packers a win. Ryan put a unique spin on his frustration with the situation, as a Packers fan and a Republican, by suggesting the replacement referees and the Obama administration shared a similar trait: incompetence.
“If you can’t get it right, it is time to get out,” Ryan said. “I half think these refs work part-time for the Obama administration in the Budget Office. They see the national-debt clock staring them in the face, they see a debt crisis, and they just ignore and pretend it didn’t even happen. They are trying to pick the winners and losers and they don’t even do that very well.”
The NFL and the referees’ union have been in a dispute over pay and pension since June, when the league locked out the regular referees and have been using replacements with less experience.
Ryan seamlessly wove the football talk into a portion of his regular stump speech. "Unlike the Seattle Seahawks last night, we want to deserve this victory. We want to earn this victory. We want a real victory, because we want a mandate to fix this mess in Washington before it gets out of our control,” he said.
As the crowd cheered, he grinned. “I’m sorry, I’m a Packer fan,” he said. “I had to get that one last one in there.”
Obama took a more bipartisan approach to the lockout, tweeting that "NFL fans on both sides of the aisle hope the refs' lockout is settled soon." It was signed "-bo," meaning the tweet was authored by the president himself.
A few minutes later, the campaign tweeted a link to a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article about a radio interview with WTAM-AM Cleveland in which Obama said, "Is it just me or do we have to get our regular refs back?"
He added: "I can't get involved in it, but I'm just expressing my point of view as a sports fan."
Obama had another chance Tuesday after his helicopter landed back at the White House. According to a media pool report, despite the noise of the helicopter, Obama heard ABC's Devon Dwyer shout the word "Packers," and that was enough for him to stop and talk to the press. "Terrible," he said of the game. "I've been saying for months, we've gotta get our refs back."
GOP nominee Mitt Romney weighed in on behalf of his running mate, although it was not clear that he had seen the game. "I sure would like to see some experienced referees with NFL experience come back onto the NFL playing fields," Romney said when asked about the controversy by CNN's Jim Acosta.
"Paul Ryan called those referees out today. Are you glad that he did that?" Acosta asked. "That's just fine," Romney said. "Paul was very angry that the Green Bay Packers, he believed won, and the referees took it away from them."