On Jan. 29, 2023, the Cincinnati Bengals played the Kansas City Chiefs for the National Football League (NFL) AFC Conference Championship. This game was the deciding factor of who would play the Philadelphia Eagles at the Super Bowl. The Chiefs ended up taking the victory in the last quarter, winning by three points from a field goal with a final score of 23-20. However, the calls made by the referees against the Bengals caused some controversy over if the game was fairly balanced or if the game proved an underlying bias in favor of the Chiefs.
Charlie McClaflin, a second-year film studies major, watched the whole game and was disappointed with the result and the calls made by the referees.
“The Chiefs got a free third down because of the ref’s own mess-up of not setting the time correctly, and so instead of changing the time, the Chiefs were allowed to play another third down,” said McClaflin. “There were calls made by the refs in the Chiefs’ favor having to do with holding and the same calls were not called for the Bengals on many plays.”
Christopher Broze, a second-year media communication major, also watched the entire game and had his own thoughts on whether the game was rigged or not.
“I saw a lot of posts on social media saying that the NFL fixed this game to allow brothers Jason Kelce (Eagles) and Travis Kelce (Chiefs) to play each other where the NFL posted about it and dubbed it as ‘The Brother Bowl’ enhancing the ratings,” said Broze. “Andy Reid, the current coach of the Chiefs, was the Eagles’ head coach for 13 years before being fired by the management. A lot of people are speculating that this game is fixed and storied as a ‘redemption and revenge story’ for Reid.”
With the calls made by the refs occurring during the Bengals vs. Chiefs game, there comes the recurring question: Is the entire NFL rigged?
“The NFL is classified as a sports and entertainment business along with the WWE,” said Broze. “A lot of people think that games are fixed because of the 2018 legalization of sports wagering along with the ongoing and ever-present advertisements of gambling platforms that the NFL profits from.”
In the past, fixing games is an issue that has occurred with referees making unfair calls in professional sports besides the NFL.
“A prime example of this is former NBA referee Tim Donaghy who fixed games for a professional gambler, which led to Donaghy being sentenced to 15 months in prison,” Broze said. “He also publicly claimed that the NBA encouraged referees to call fouls that manipulated the results of games.”
There are two sides to the coin as to whether or not people believe the NFL is rigged, but the Bengals vs. Chiefs game reignited controversy leaving people speculating afterward.
“I do believe the game was rigged because it just seemed like nothing was going for the Bengals and everything was going for the Chiefs,” said McClaflin.
While some people believe the game was set up in favor of the Chiefs, others have differing opinions on the outcome of the game being a fair matchup.
“I am not a part of the conspiracy group saying that the game was fixed because referees
are not perfect; they’re human! We all make mistakes!” said Broze. “At the same time, however, they are supposed to be as close to perfect as possible because they are refereeing a game that leads to the Super Bowl.”
If the refs hadn’t made the calls they did toward the Bengals during the game, would the Bengals have been celebrating with popped bottles of champagne on their way to the Super Bowl, or did it make no difference for the fate of the Chiefs taking the win?