Refs Union Refutes ESPN DeflateGate Story, Says No Game Official Fired

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General view of NFL footballs used in Super Bowl XLIX.

Photo via General view of footballs on the field before Super Bowl XLIX between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that didn’t take long.

An eventful 24 hours in the DeflateGate saga somehow took another turn Wednesday night, as the NFL Referees’ Association released a statement claiming no NFL game official has been fired in connection with any events in the AFC Championship Game.

The statement came just hours after ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported, via league sources, that the NFL fired an official who supplied a football to a New England Patriots employee for selling game balls on the side for profit. In its statement, the NFLRA demanded a public apology from ESPN and asked that the network retract its story.

“No NFL Game Official has been fired in connection with the circumstances involving footballs used in the AFC Championship Game,” Jim Quirk, executive director of the NFLRA, said in the statement. “Our members have and will continue to cooperate fully with the NFL’s investigation into this matter, and we request an immediate retraction of this story and a public apology to our membership.”

The one caveat here is that Schefter’s story originally said the NFL fired an “official,” not a “game official.” ESPN later changed its wording to “NFL employee,” so it’s possible that the man fired by the NFL is not a member of the referees’ association.

Schefter’s report came in response to a Tuesday night article from Kelly Naqi of ESPN’s “Outside the Lines,” who reported that Patriots locker room attendant Jim McNally tried to introduce unapproved kicking balls into the AFC Championship Game.

Neither Schefter nor ESPN had responded to the NFLRA’s statement as of Wednesday night.

Thumbnail photo via Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports Images

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