With the debacle in Seattle fresh in the minds of NFL football fans, let’s take a look at the NFL’s lockout of referees from a brand perspective.

The replacements refs of the NFL botched the final play of the Monday night’s game, when they ruled that Seattle receiver Golden Tate caught the ball in the end zone when it was clear that Green Bay defensive back M.D. Jennings had intercepted it. After the refs stood around looking at each other – watch the ref to the left during the replay – they ruled it a touchdown, giving a 14-12 victory to the Seahawks.

Fans are outraged. Coaches are perplexed. Players are furious. Twitter is on fire. Rightly so.

The larger issue for the NFL is that the seemingly callous nature of the league office and commissioner Roger Goodell will hurt the league’s brand if this continues. Commentators are calling this the final straw, and it probably is, but it goes beyond that.

Watching NFL football over the last three weeks has become a chore. Missed calls, endless reviews, tediously long games and exasperated coaches trying to intimidate the refs have ruined nearly every game.

While there are tough negotiating issues involved in the referee strike – the officials want to switch their pension to a 401K plan, the norm for NFL employees – the league may have difficulty reclaiming the public trust when it ends. Baseball never fully recovered from the players’ strike of 1994 that canceled the World Series. The NBA cannot remove the stigma of the brawl in Detroit eight years ago that made the league look thuggish.

Now this.

Question is, what will the NFL look like when the lockout finally ends?