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NFL confirms referee criticized by Travis Kelce will lead crew at Super Bowl LI

Travis Kelce rips ref's holding call after Chiefs' loss

Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce was unhappy with a holding call that negated the game-tying two-point conversion during the closing minutes of an 18–16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Divisional playoffs on January 15, 2017, at Arrowhead
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Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce was unhappy with a holding call that negated the game-tying two-point conversion during the closing minutes of an 18–16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Divisional playoffs on January 15, 2017, at Arrowhead

I am certain that the NFL didn’t do this just to spite Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.

However, Carl Cheffers, the referee from Sunday night’s AFC Divisional playoff game between the Chiefs and Steelers, has been chosen to work Super Bowl LI.

Last week, FootballZebras.com reported that Cheffers had been chosen, and the NFL made it official on Wednesday.

Cheffers is in his 17th season as an official in the NFL, and this will be his first Super Bowl. However, he was the alternate referee for Super Bowl XLIX and an alternate official for Super Bowl XLII.

ESPN’s Kevin Seifert ranked all of the NFL officiating crews by the number of penalties called per game this season, and Cheffers’ team tied for 10th (out of 17) with 15.1 calls per game.

Of course, it was one call in particular that is going to be remembered for a long, long time in Kansas City. Cheffers ruled that Eric Fisher held Pittsburgh’s James Harrison when the Chiefs converted a two-point conversion that appeared to tie the game late in the fourth quarter.

After the holding call, the Chiefs’ second crack at the conversion failed and they ended up losing 18-16 to the Steelers. Afterward, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce unloaded on Cheffers.

“That wasn’t a hold on my guy Eric Fisher,” Kelce said. “Ref number 51 shouldn’t even be able to wear a zebra jersey ever again. He shouldn’t even be able to work at … Foot Locker.”

When the news broke last week, Mike Pereira, the rules analyst for Fox Sports and former vice president of officiating for the NFL, had high praise for the league picking Cheffers. Pereira also took a dig at Kelce on a video clip that Pereira shared on Twitter.

“It was a good call at a big time of the game,” Pereira said. “You have to step up when the game’s on the line and make those calls and he did. He deserves this assignment.

“Travis Kelce doesn’t think so. Travis Kelce said it was a lousy call, that it wasn’t a hold. But what is Travis Kelce going to be doing at Super Bowl? He’s going to be watching it, while Carl Cheffers is getting paid for it and getting a ring. Kelce is not going to get anything.”

Woof.

Here is the video:

The good news for Kelce is that Field Judge Mike Weatherford, who threw two flags that led to Kelce’s ejection in a game against the Jaguars earlier this season, is not on the list of officials who will work the Super Bowl.

The other members of the Super Bowl LI officiating crew are Dan Ferrell (umpire), Kent Payne (head linesman), Jeff Seeman (line judge), Doug Rosenbaum (field judge), Dyrol Prioleau (side judge), and Todd Prukop (back judge). Collectively, the Super Bowl LI officiating crew has 93 years of NFL officiating experience and 64 combined playoff game assignments.

By the way, Cheffers is no stranger to controversy. He was the referee in the Packers-Lions game on Dec. 3, 2015 when Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers threw a 61-yard Hail Mary to Richard Rodgers to win the game. The Packers were given an extra down after a penalty and Aaron Rodgers worked his magic.

“I think it’s an illegal tackle,” Cheffers told ESPN last year. “Horse-collar, face mask, I think it was an illegal tackle. So I’m very comfortable with it.”

Pete Grathoff: 816-234-4330, @pgrathoff

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