June 21, 2024


The referee’s decision to call a pre-snap penalty on Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Kadarius Toney sparked debate across the NFL this week. The call nullified a go-head touchdown for the Chiefs, who ultimately suffered a three-point loss to the Buffalo Bills.

Reigning NFL and Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes, along with head coach Andy Reid, was visibly upset about the penalty. Mahomes later apologized for his sideline outburst officials and his postgame interaction with Bills quarterback Josh Allen.

Reid, some Chiefs players and others seemed to be upset that Toney did not receive a customary pre-snap warning. Although NFL policy does not require referees to give players a warning about a potential pre-snap violation, many officials do issue a warning as a courtesy.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell defended the referees when he chimed in on the call, saying the officials made the “right call.” 

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Roger Goodell at the NFL Draft

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell speaks from the podium during Round One of the 2023 NFL Draft at Union Station in Kansas City, Missouri. (Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

“I think almost everybody, [to] my knowledge, is acknowledging the officials were absolutely correct,” Goodell said Wednesday in his news conference. “That’s their job: to call when there’s a foul. There was no question about that foul. It was absolutely the right call. If you don’t call that, [then] our officials would have been subject to criticism also.”

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A postgame pool report from officials stated that the referees do not want to be overly technical when it comes to penalizing players for an offside violation. However, the line judge observed that Toney’s “alignment was over the ball,” which meant that a flag needed to be thrown, according to the pool report.

Kadarius Toney runs

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Kadarius Toney, #19, runs to the end zone after catching a lateral by teammate Travis Kelce during the second half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023, in Kansas City, Missouri. The play was nullified after Toney was called for being offside on the play. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

Referee Carl Cheffers, one of the game’s officials, said that the player is ultimately responsible for lining up onsides.

Cheffers acknowledged that had Toney asked whether he was offsides, the official could have confirmed he was.

“Ultimately, if they looked for alignment advice, certainly we are going to give it to them,” Cheffers said. “But ultimately, they are responsible for wherever they line up. And certainly, no warning is required, especially if they are lined up so far offsides where they’re actually blocking our view of the ball.”

Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen

Patrick Mahomes, #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs, reacts with Josh Allen, #17 of the Buffalo Bills, after the game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium on Dec. 10, 2023 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

He added that officials typically try to give players a warning about a potential offsides violation, but described Toney’s alignment as “egregious” and something that “would be beyond warning.”

“We would give them some sort of a warning if it was anywhere close, but this particular one is beyond a warning. … If it’s egregious enough, it would be beyond warning.”

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Goodell doubled down on his support for NFL referees, saying they often “do an extraordinary job.” The commissioner also spoke about his belief that technology has created an environment for football fans to scrutinize officiating. 

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“They are not perfect. No human being is,” Goodell said. “But the reality is they do an extraordinary job. I find it ironic that I’m standing here answering a question about [when] the officials got it right and they’re being criticized. I think it shows you how difficult it is to do their job, and I understand that and understand it comes with the job. The officials understand that. But I am incredibly proud about not just what they did at that game, but also what they continue to do.”

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