Guest Column: Are you playing fair?

“Fairness always begins with the right attitude toward others.”

As I pulled on my striped shirt and adjusted my hat prior to walking onto CenturyLink Field, I was thinking about two of the players on the Seattle Seahawks football team. As a referee in the National Football League, I am charged with a single assignment…to be fair. I cannot prejudge anyone or any team. I must be objective on every play from the beginning of the game until the final gun sounds.

And yet, I simply could not get these two players out of my mind. The media had spoken about them and their on-field issues. So, I made a conscious decision to speak with them prior to the game. I caught one of the player’s eyes and he came over and called his teammate with him. The first thing I did was to encourage each one of them to have their very best game. I expressed how hard I knew they had worked this past week to prepare and that I had done the same thing to prepare myself to be at my best.

I wanted them to know that even though I had read many articles and heard several television stories relating to their actions on the field, that I would not prejudge them whatsoever. I would be looking for them to perform at their very best within the rules of our game. We parted ways with a handshake and a smile.

The Arizona Cardinals kicked off that day…. and play after play I saw these two Seahawks perform much differently than I had witnessed on film or in the media. They were encouraging and complimenting their opponents on almost every play and our game was as smooth as any game I have officiated during my career. Very few flags were thrown and the teams played inspired football.

Fairness always begins with the right attitude toward others. Don’t prejudge anyone until you’ve had an opportunity to meet them and understand their story. Life will be so much better if you give others the benefit of the doubt.

Steve WilsonSteve Wilson, former NFL Official (#29), joined the National Football League in 1999. Prior to that, Steve refereed for 18 years in major college football which included the Pac-10 Conference. He graduated from East Valley High School and Whitworth University. He was one of the first members of the PACE leadership team.