President Obama weighed in on a disputed call in last Sunday’s NFL wild card playoff game between the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions, saying he would be “pretty aggravated” if he were a Lions fan.
The questionable call came halfway through the 4th quarter when, with the Lions leading 20-17, a referee flagged a Cowboys defender for pass interference. But in an unorthodox move, another referee reversed the call and picked up the flag. That left the Lions facing 4th down, and they decided to punt. The Cowboys then drove down the field for a touchdown.
“The call is announced and then reversed without explanation,” Obama told The Detroit News in an interview on Tuesday.
“I haven’t seen that before — so I will leave it up to the experts to make the judgment as to why that happened — but I can tell you if I was a Lions fan I’d be pretty aggravated.”
Obama, who will travel to Detroit on Wednesday and meet with Ford Motors CEO Bill Ford Jr., whose family owns the Lions, said he could not “remember a circumstance in which a good call by one of the refs is argued about by an opposing player of the other team with his helmet off on the field, which in and of itself is supposed to be a penalty.”
The call has been widely debated among sports pundits, with most disagreeing with the reversal. Few could remember a reversal, especially in such an important game.
During the game, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was heard on microphone calling the call “homecooking,” as the game was held at Cowboys’ home field, AT&T Stadium.
Pete Morelli, who refereed the game, explained the reversal.
“The back judge threw his flag for defensive pass interference,” he told a reporter with ESPN News. “We got other information from a different angle that thought the contact was minimal and didn’t warrant pass interference. He thought it was face-guarding.”
Face-guarding, which occurs when a defender intentionally blocks a receivers’ view, is illegal in college football, but not in the NFL, Morelli said.
Obama said he wasn’t too upset by the call given his own allegiance to the Chicago Bears, longtime rivals of the Lions.
“Given the performance of my Bears, I can’t have too much sympathy for the Lions,” Obama said.
“You guys were in a lot better position than we were. I’d love to have your defense right now.”