MADISON, Wis. – If there’s one thing that can unite political foes in Wisconsin, it just may be the Green Bay Packers.
Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who made a national name for himself by going after public employee unions last year, posted a message on Twitter calling for the return of the NFL’s locked-out unionized officials after a disputed call led to a Seattle Seahawks 14-12 victory over the Packers on Monday night.
“After catching a few hours of sleep, the (hash)Packers game is still just as painful. (hash)Returntherealrefs,” Walker tweeted early Tuesday.
Democratic state Sen. Jon Erpenbach, who was one of 14 Democrats who fled to Illinois for three weeks last year in opposition to Walker’s union proposal, said he saw the irony in Walker’s post but in Wisconsin “we’re all fans, first and foremost.”
“If you were born and raised in Wisconsin, you were raised on the Packers,” Erpenbach said. “Every Sunday it’s Packers and pancakes, not necessarily in that order.”
The NFL locked out the officials in June after their contract expired. The league has been using replacement officials, and through three weeks of the regular season there has been much criticism over the way some games are being handled.
Walker’s spokesman Cullen Werwie tried to spin the governor’s post on Tuesday, saying it wasn’t meant as a pro-union political statement. Walker’s tweet was being widely mocked on Twitter in light of his push last year that effectively ended collective bargaining for teachers, nurses and most other public workers.
“I don’t think this anything to do with unions, but has everything to do with refs making bad calls,” Werwie said.
Erpenbach was so incensed over the game that around midnight Monday night he tweeted two different public phone numbers for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and urged people to call and voice their displeasure.
“I could never ref an NFL football game, ever,” Erpenbach said. “The replacement refs are doing the best they can do out there, but the commissioner doesn’t want this to sink to a World Wrestling Federation-type event on Sunday. They have to do something. It calls into question the integrity of the game.”
While Erpenbach himself plans to leave a message for Goodell urging an end to the referee labor dispute, he won’t be advising the Packers to employ the same tactics he and the other Democratic senators did last year.
“I would not recommend the Packers get on a bus and leave the state,” he said.