NFL referee Jerome Boger of Atlanta
Editor Ben Austro of FootballZebras.com
ATLANTA - A New Jersey sports blogger has created a controversy by suggesting that an NFL referee from Atlanta has been "cherry picked" to head this year's Super Bowl officiating team.
Although the roster isn't official yet, Ben Austro of FootballZebras.com said sources have told him the head ref will be Jerome Boger of Conyers.
But Austro claimed there's evidence Boger was picked over more qualified officials.
First of all, the fact that he had 8 "dings" or calls reversed this year that were quietly changed when Boger appealed.
"Generally you see one or two reversals in a year, but not eight, so somebody had changed all of these bad grades to neutral," Austro told 11 Alive News on Tuesday.
Second, Boger has never worked a conference championship game, which used to be a prerequisite.
Austro said he's spoken to several other unnamed NFL referees who believe Boger has received special treatment, possibly for a couple of reasons.
"Some people have thought that there might be a diversity element to it; he would only be the second African-American referee to head the Super Bowl," Austro told 11Alive.
He suggested another reason might be revenge against some NFL refs actively involved in last summer's strike.
"There's also a couple of officials who were outspoken during the referee lockout in the preseason; they are seemingly not in the playoffs," Austro pointed out.
Boger is a former quarterback at Atlanta's Morehouse College, where Athletic Director Andre Pattillo refused our interview request.
He told 11Alive he was "appalled" by the favoritism suggestions, saying, "I don't want to be part of that."
Blogger Austro said the NFL refs he's spoken with about it are afraid to go public.
"The officials themselves are pretty upset by this; they're silent about it because you really can't air your dirty laundry and keep your job," he added.
We left a message on Jerome Boger's home phone, but have not received a reply.
The NFL issued a statement denying that Boger is being treated any differently than any other official.