WASHINGTON — The embarrassing NFL referee saga and the disputed call that gave the Seattle Seahawks a victory over the Green Bay Packers on Monday night has reached the campaign for the White House, with President Barack Obama deeming it "terrible" and declaring it was time to get regular officiating crews back on the job.
"I've been saying for months we've got to get our refs back," Obama said as he returned to the White House from an appearance before the United Nations. In a tweet that went out under over his initials, Obama said: "NFL fans on both sides of the aisle hope the refs' lockout is settled soon."
In a rare moment of agreement with Obama, GOP running mate Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin native, also said it was time to bring back the "real refs." But he used the episode on the football field to argue a partisan case for kicking the president out of office.
"It reminds me of President Obama and the economy," Ryan said in Cincinnati. "If you can't get it right, it's time to get out. I half think that these refs work part-time for the Obama administration in the budget office. ... They're trying to pick the winners and losers, and they don't even do that very well."
Seattle won 14-12 over Green Bay after referees ruled a Seattle receiver caught the ball amid a pile of bodies in the end zone on the game's last play. The NFL conceded that a Seattle penalty in the course of the play went uncalled and cost the Packers the victory, but the league upheld the catch itself and the Seahawks' victory. Legions of football fans watched the play and the referees' call in disbelief, and buzzed about it all day Tuesday.
Typically, Obama, a diehard Chicago Bears enthusiast, is not one to wish the rival Green Bay Packers well.
But besides being an avid sports fan, Obama recently has redoubled efforts to win in the Packer's home state of Wisconsin. His campaign recently started airing ads in the state and Obama held a rally Saturday in Milwaukee, his first visit to the state since February.
The NFL locked out the officials in June after their contract expired. The league has been using replacement officials, who have come under increasing criticism over the way they handled some games.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One that Obama watched the Monday night game and "thinks there was a real problem with that call."
"He said that what happened in that game is why both sides need to come together, resolve their differences so that the regular refs can get back on the field so we can start focusing on a game that so many of us love rather than debating whether or not a game was won or lost because of a bad call," Carney said.
Obama said in a phone interview Tuesday with The Des Moines Register that he doesn't blame the replacement refs.
"They've been put in a tough situation," the president said. "But the fact is this is a fast, tough game to control. And it doesn't make sense to me for a league that's been so successful not to want to put their very best out there."