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The Gator

The student news site of Brimmer and May School | Chestnut Hill, MA

The Gator

The student news site of Brimmer and May School | Chestnut Hill, MA

The Gator

Innovation Can Fix Sports’ Referee Problem

After a series of misjudged calls in the NBA and NFL, AI looks like an appealing addition to officiating.
Wikimedia Commons
A referee pointing into the distance.

Controversial calls heavily impact sports and as an avid sports fan, I know what it feels like when a bad call costs your team the game or a shot at a championship.

After the 2024 NBA All-Star Game on February 18, Commissioner Adam Silver said that the league has been trying to crack down on the recent officiating issues and the players’ complaints about poor officiating, especially in game-winning situations.

Last week, NBA officials failed to call a loose-ball foul on the New York Knicks in the final minutes of a game against Detroit Pistons, tilting the game in favor of the Knicks. Despite the referees admitting to their mistake, yet Pistons coach Monty Williams was less than thrilled.

“That situation is Exhibit A to what we’ve been dealing with all season long and enough’s enough,” Williams said. “You cannot dive into a guy’s legs in a big-time game like that and there be a no-call. It’s ridiculous and we’re tired of it. We just want a fair game called. Period. And I’ve got nothing else to say. We want a fair game and that was not fair. I’m done.”

In another instance, Houston Rockets guard Aaron Holiday was incorrectly granted two free throws, propelling the Rockets to a two-point victory over the New York Knicks. After the game, the Knicks filed a protest after the officiating crew admitted to their erroneous call. The protest was subsequently denied by the league.

Back in January, the first example was the controversial foul call was on Boston Celtics center Kristaps Porzingis, which led to the Indiana Pacers’ game-winning free throws in the final seconds of the Celtics’ Jan. 8 loss. The missed call caused an uproar in the NBA community.

Once again, the officiating crew revealed the following morning that the Pacers’ game-winning free throws were wrongfully awarded.

The officiating problem in the NBA has been introduced previously. A long-standing player and referee conflict between referee Scott Foster and Golden State Warriors guard Chris Paul.

The most recent instance was when Paul was called for two technical fouls and ejected by Foster during the Warriors’ loss to the Phoenix Suns on Nov. 22.

Another example of this conflict was Paul’s ejection in Game 3 of the 2021 NBA Finals when Paul was playing for the Phoenix Suns. Paul also admitted that he is 2-17 when Foster is officiating playoff games that he is playing in.

However, the NBA isn’t the only league with referee issues.

NFL officials have also been scrutinized by fans for various uncalled penalties including multiple in crunch time at the end of games.

A crucial Saturday Night Football game between the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys ended in controversy after the Lions’ game-winning 2-point conversion attempt was disallowed because of an ineligible player downfield penalty on Lions offensive lineman Taylor Decker. It was later revealed to be a mistake by referee Brad Allen and the game’s officiating crew.

Recent Officiating Errors
February 27, 2024: Detroit Pistons at New York Knicks
February 12, 2024: New York Knicks at Houston Rockets
January 8, 2024: Boston Celtics at Indiana Pacers
December 30, 2023: Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys

After the game’s controversial ending, citizens of Detroit put up billboards protesting that Decker reported as eligible. Therefore, the Lions should have won that game and should have a 12-4 record instead of 11-5.

As an NFL fan, mistakes by the referees on fourth downs are infuriating and can often change the outcome of an entire game.

Furthermore, fans complained about multiple uncalled offensive holding penalties by the Kansas City Chiefs offensive line throughout the year. Most notably, during overtime in Super Bowl LVIII, referees missed a holding call against San Francisco 49ers edge rusher Nick Bosa, which led to a Chiefs’ 25-22 overtime win.

This also marked the third consecutive Super Bowl in which the Kansas City Chiefs offensive line was not called for a single holding penalty.

To solve these problems, we can introduce AI for some of the more controversial aspects of sports such as NFL fourth down plays and the NBA goaltending rule.

AI is already used in tennis to call ins and outs and was used in the 2022 World Cup for offside. Using computers for tennis ins and outs has been successful for many years and is much more accurate than a human.

Advancements in AI led it to be able to tell whether a pitcher tosses a ball or strikes, or whether a basketball player commits a foul which has both led to much conflict and many player and coach ejections for arguing with the referees.

Moreover, sports leagues can add more referees on the field. In sports like soccer and basketball, only three officials oversee a game, increasing the probability of a bad call.

With rapid advancements to technology, innovation can steer sports back on track while keeping players, not referees in the spotlight.

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About the Contributor
Jack Malloy
Jack Malloy, Journalist
Jack is in 11th grade and this is his third year of Journalism. He loves playing with his dog and watching sports with his dad. His favorite sport to watch is football and his favorite team is the Baltimore Ravens. He enjoys Skiing in the winter and going to Boston Celtics games

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