The National Football League decided Aug. 29 that it plans to use replacement referees for the opening games of the season this year as opposed to going back to the table with the Referees Association.
According to The New York Times, the association and the league have been at odds since June and have not met since July 27.
The referees want better pay and pensions. The NFL wants to hire only some of them full-time and make the pool of referees bigger, so they can select “the best of the best” to officiate games.
The announcement came just seven days before the first game, and The NFL Referees Association released a statement saying they feel the move is on par with the multi-billion dollar corporation’s “take it or leave it policy.”
They said, “If the NFL is serious about negotiating, we are ready, but we can’t negotiate with ourselves.”
The entire situation is a shame to the game.
While most refs are not megastars, they are as important to the season as the players.
When a whistle blows, audience members quiet down, and an eruption of cheers or applause follows the official calls on the field.
They are essentially the gods of football, telling players and audience members what is and is not acceptable behavior.
And, most importantly, they’re on the field to keep players safe.
DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the National Football League Players Association, said in an interview with Sports Illustrated, “The NFL has chosen to prevent the very officials that they have trained, championed and cultivated for decades to be on the field to protect players and — by their own admission — further our goal of enhanced safety. That is absurd on its face.”
While sitting at home and cheering for the Dallas Cowboys or shouting for the defeat of the Houston Texans, audiences don’t actually want to see athletes get seriously injured.
That fact is undeniable.
It is also undeniable that experience tends to yield quality.
The NFL — again, undeniably — can and should place keeping players safety and referees’ working rights above their disgraceful bargaining techniques.