Clete Blakeman

Clete Blakeman: NFL Referee Draws Attention During Super Bowl 50

Clete Blakeman, the lead referee for Superbowl 50, found himself in a position he probably did not expect in last night’s football game. NFL officials are used to receiving attention from fans in most games they officiate. Often, that is not positive attention. But as millions of viewers tuned into last night’s big game, referee Clete Blakeman found himself capturing the attention of many fans, not for his calls, but for his looks. Minutes into the game, tweets were already popping up, referring to Blakeman as Ref 34.

Clete Blakeman played football at the University of Nebraska as a backup quarterback from 1984 to 1987, according to a report from Today. In 2008, Blakeman was hired for his first NFL job as a field judge. Clete served in that position for two years before becoming a referee in 2010. His job as an NFL referee isn’t his only one, though. Clete Blakeman is also a practicing attorney in Omaha, Nebraska. To the chagrin of his new fans, Blakeman’s Twitter profile is private, but it includes a picture of him with the people we presume are his family — a wife and two young daughters.

Today reports that this is Blakeman’s second gig as a referee for the big game. In the 2014 Super Bowl game, he served as a backup referee. This year’s game is the first Super Bowl in which he was the lead official, which gave him lots of camera time and quickly made Blakeman quite popular with lots of viewers. His admirers even created a new hashtag just for the occasion — #hotref.

In other news related to NFL referee Clete Blakeman, some viewers took to the internet to cite his record for officiating Broncos games and how it compares to his record for officiating Panthers games. Among them is ESPN, which reports that the Carolina Panthers’ record for games officiated by Blakeman is 2-2. Of the five games he has officiated involving the Denver Broncos, however, all have been wins for the Broncos. The lead referee for last year’s Super Bowl, Ed Hochuli, has a similar record, with the Broncos winning all seven of the games he has officiated. They also cite, however, that given the Broncos’ record (62-34 in regular-season play since 2010), there are many referees besides Clete Blakeman and Ed Hochuli who have officiated more winning games than losing games for the Denver Broncos.

ESPN also cites calls by Blakeman Clete that seem to favor the Broncos. Blakeman called twice as many penalties on the Panthers as on the Broncos last night, and the 19 flags that were thrown is well above the Super Bowl average of 13 or 14. They do concede, however, that Clete’s record in last night’s game may not be favoritism, as most agree that the Carolina Panthers were off their game.

Slate took issue with one of Blakeman’s calls early in the game last night. It was a call with which others also disagreed. Carolina Coach Ron Rivera challenged a call when Clete ruled a pass as incomplete. The Panthers’ Jerricho Cotchery juggled the ball, but many thought is was a catch. CBS’s referee expert Mike Carey also stated he thought it was a catch and that the call would be overturned. It was not. Clete Blakeman stuck with his original call of incomplete.

Regardless of the questionable call and the opinion of some that Clete Blakeman favors the Broncos, the 51-year-old attorney and NFL referee heated up social media throughout Super Bowl 50, as many continued watching for the chance to see him on camera again, some pausing the game now and then to take a longer look.

[Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images]