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Why do NFL football referees throw their hats?

The short answer is referees and officials use headgear to mark a spot on the field when the ball is in play. Since officials are separated by several yards from the point on the field they wish to mark, they toss their caps as close to the spot as possible.
Usually the point marked is a place where a call has been made; such as where a fumble was recovered by the opposition, the point where a runner steps out of bounds, or the point at which a penalty occurred.
Officials have other ways of marking a point on the field during play. Officials can use their feet to mark a spot, usually if the play is dead or has been whistled complete. They also have a blue beanbag that is technically for use in marking the point of a change of ball possession. Officials are free to use whatever they have available to mark the points on the field that will be important during key rulings about a play or situation, including their hats.
The hat is thrown most often when all other tools to mark points on the gridiron have been deployed. How can this happen? Let's say that an official notes a foul committed during a play, and he throws his yellow flag. He does not blow his whistle because by rule, play may continue. As it does, a defensive player recovers a fumble and our official marks the point where the fumble was recovered by tossing his blue beanbag to that spot to mark the change in possession. Finally, as the play continues to unfold, the runner steps out of bounds as he returns the fumble toward his goal line. Our official races to the point, blowing his whistle repeatedly to signal the end of the play and tosses his hat to the point where the ball and the runner left the field and from where the recovering team will try to advance the ball on the next play (if the penalty does not forbid it).
(Updated by BrandonBee)
Actually, in the NFL, officials carry 2 yellow flags for penalties. There are 2 instances where the hat might be thrown.
(1) After one official notices 2 penalties on the same play, a 3rd penalty will be called by throwing his hat in the air. (2) If a player goes out of bounds and returns inbounds during a kicking play, a hat will be thrown to mark the spot the player returned in bounds. A bean bag is thrown only to mark the spot of a possible penalty enforcement. Many penalties are enforced from the end of the run. If a player fumbles the ball, the spot of the fumble is the 'end of the run'. Therefore, if a penalty is called on the play by a different official, the referees will all know where to enforce the penalty - the spot where the bean bag was thrown.
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