Pacific Northwest Football Officials Association (PNFOA) referees used pink whistles and donated their checks for last Thursday’s game to support the Susan G. Komen Foundation. The 140 referees all agreed to raise breast cancer awareness and donate their pay for the game to breast cancer research. In an era of few suitable role models, the officials’ public statement and act of charity seems noble.
Not so fast. It seems the pink whistles violate Washington Officials Association (WOA) rules. The WOA provides oversight and direction for officiating in all interscholastic sports. According to WOA’s chairman, Todd Stordahl:
They chose not to ask for permission, not to go the right route. It sends the wrong message to kids that are playing the game. ‘If they broke the rules why can’t I do the same.’
Instead of accolades for their civic mindedness, WOA is considering punishing the referees for being out of uniform. They could be suspended for two playoff games, depriving them of officiating at the premier events of their sport. The officials would also not be paid for those games. In that case, their donation of Thursday’s game check became three times as costly. High school referees don’t do it for the money, but that’s a pretty high price for demonstrating to kids they should be part of something bigger than themselves.
According to a poll by TV station KING, 94% support the referees and only 4% think the WOA is in the right. The remaining 1% couldn’t make up their minds. It’s such a complicated issue, afterall.
Public opinion can influence decisions. It seems Stordahl is sorry he came out so strongly against the referees. Apparently, a decision on disciplinary action now won’t be made until after the season. Stordahl said it’s all about following the chain-of-command.
WOA deeply regrets that there’s any perception that we don’t support any breast cancer programs. As someone who follows sports, that’s all that we have are rules, regulations and interpretations.