'Shame on you': America rages over 'disgraceful' NFL ref moment

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·Sports Reporter
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NFL fans have reacted angrily after NFL referee Tony Corrente appeared to deliberately hip check Chicago's Cassius Marsh, before then throwing a flag on the previous play for taunting. Picture: ESPN
NFL fans have reacted angrily after NFL referee Tony Corrente appeared to deliberately hip check Chicago's Cassius Marsh, before then throwing a flag on the previous play for taunting. Picture: ESPN

NFL fans have erupted after a referee appeared to deliberately hip-check a player running behind him before penalising the player for coming into contact with an official.

Referee Tony Corrente became the biggest story to emerge out of the Pittsburgh Steelers' 29-27 victory over the Chicago Bears after fans vented their fury over a controversial flag with just over three minutes to play.

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Bears linebacker Cassius Marsh sacked Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on third-and-7. 

The result of the play would have led to a Steelers punt with Pittsburgh leading 23-20 and 3:16 remaining in regulation.

But Corrente flagged Marsh for taunting, setting the Steelers up with a first down, after the Bears linebacker briefly moved towards the Steelers bench.

He didn't appear to make any gestures or say anything before turning and running the other way, past Corrente who appeared to go out of his way to make contact, before then throwing the flag.

They went on to kick a field goal on the drive that proved to be the decisive margin in Pittsburgh's two-point win.

Social media went into a frenzy almost immediately after the flag was thrown, with many speculating Corrente had deliberately leaned into Marsh.

The flag was thrown for taunting, not for the contact with Corrente.

Marsh criticised Corrente for the penalty after the game.

“I think that one was bad timing," Marsh told reporters. "It was pretty clear to everybody that saw it that I wasn’t taunting.”

He also said that Corrente intentionally "hip-checked" him.

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The penalty on Marsh was certainly not one that would have been called prior to the league's 2021 emphasis on taunting. 

Marsh didn't gesture at the Steelers or say anything directly or close to a Steelers player. 

That it played a role in the outcome of Monday's game is the exact scenario critics of the emphasis have levelled since the NFL announced it in the preseason.

Corrente explained his decision to throw the flag to pool reporter Adam Hoge.

"First of all, keep in mind that taunting is a point of emphasis this year," he said. 

"And with that said, I saw the player, after he made a big play, run toward the bench area of the Pittsburgh Steelers and posture in such a way that I felt he was taunting them."

On Tuesday, an NFL source backed Corrente's decision while speaking with The Washington Post's Mark Maske.

"The call was the definition of taunting, with the player gesturing toward the sideline and opponent," the source said, per Maske.

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin spoke out in support of the NFL's new emphasis on penalising infractions.

“We’re just trying to clean our game up,” Tomlin told reporters at his Tuesday news conference, per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. 

“We embrace the responsibility that comes with being the role models that we are. 

"With this game being played at the highest level, we understand the people that play at a lower level watch us and often mimic the things we do and how we conduct ourselves."

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