One of the most bizarre high school football stories of the fall season took another twist on Tuesday, as 143 football referees from the Pacific Northwest Football Officials Association were finally disciplined seven months later -- for wearing pink whistles -- by having the majority of playoff games revoked over the next two years by the Washington Officials Association Commissioner. This brings a close to a story that's been going on for months without a resolution.
To get you up to speed, a group of high school football officials in the state of Washington decided to wear pink charity whistles last year to support breast cancer awareness and donate their game checks for the week to the Susan G. Komen Foundation. It was a cause that hit home with a number of the referees in the group.
But instead of the idea being welcomed by the Washington Officials Association, the group received the exact opposite response it was hoping for, as the association threatened the group with a two-game ban and the possibility of losing two game checks.
"They chose not to ask for permission, not to go the right route," WOA commissioner Todd Stordahl told KING 5 at the time. "It sends the wrong message to kids that are playing the game. 'If they broke the rules why can't I do the same?'"
Days later, Stordahl did an about-face from his threats and said no referee would be fined for using the whistles. He did, however, leave the door open for some sort of sanction against the group -- which he decided to bring down on the Pacific Northwest Football Officials Association on Tuesday.
If you're following at home, Stordahl went from threatening the group to pulling back on the threat, to then waiting seven months to finally throw a decision in at the end of the school year. It doesn't sound so crazy when you see the dizzying road this story has taken since last fall.
"There's one person who has the authority to make that decision, and it's not PNFOA," Stordahl told MyNorthwest.com.
It's a sorry ending to a story that had the potential to be a heart warmer. Instead, the WOA could be in for a fight, especially after the harsh ruling that was brought down on the PNFOA.
As MyNorthwest.com reported, the group is now walking a fine line between being able to ref playoff games in a couple of years, and never being able to ref again in the Pacific Northwest.
Sources close to the decision confirm that the refs will have the majority of their playoff games revoked for the next two years, and their organization is on probation for the next three years.
If Stordahl and the WOA disagree with anything the refs do in that time, they will decertify the group, and 143 referees will be out of a job.
While the referees went ahead with the whistles after being told they weren't in line with the state's official dress code, the fact that they pulled back on disciplinary action only to hammer the group seven months later is simply baffling.
Hopefully the two sides can come to some agreement in the near future, because this definitely isn't the way to build goodwill between two groups that obviously need each other.
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