NFL Players’ Association Issues Withering Criticism Of Referee Lockout
September 24, 2012 7:30 am
Week three and still no referees.
Scab referees continued to officiate NFL games despite blown calls, general incompetence and embarrassing information on the provenance and former occupations of the replacements after informal talks between the NFL and the NFL Referees’ Association (NFLRA) broke down earlier this week. While the two sides will continue to pursue informal talks, even if an agreement was hashed out tomorrow the regular referees would not return until week five due to the process of approving a new contract and the preparations necessary to get refs back on the field.
The NFL Players’ Association, fresh off a labor battle of their own, voiced its opinion on the lockout in no uncertain terms. In a letter posted to the NFLPA website, current and former players, including Drew Brees and Scott Fujita, excoriated the league and owners for putting players in danger over the modest demands of experienced referees. To recap, the NFL wants to dismantle the current referee pension system in favor of a 401(k) plan, and the two sides are about $16 million apart on salary negotiations. In emphasizing the safety issue, the players’ union echoes the referees’ union and the AFL-CIO’s Richard Trumka. Speaking on ESPN’s NFL Sunday Countdown, former coach/analyst Mike Ditka spoke in support of referees: “…Work it out, guys, it can’t be about money, the league makes too much money!”
The full text of the letter from the Players’ Union to NFL Owners follows:
The NFL Players Association Executive Committee is calling on you to end the lockout of our referees. We believe there is substantial evidence that you have failed in your obligation to provide as safe a working environment as possible.
Your decision to lock out officials with more than 1,500 years of collective NFL experience has led to a deterioration of order, safety and integrity. This affirmative decision has not only resulted in poor calls, missed calls and bad game management, but the combination of those deficiencies will only continue to jeopardize player health and safety and the integrity of the game that has taken decades to build.
As we predicted and explained to you weeks ago, the removal of the veteran officials from regular season games left a group of your replacements who have proved to be incapable of keeping pace with the speed of the game. Coaches and players have complained of numerous errors and failures including: erratic and missed calls on egregious holds and hits, increased skirmishes between players and confusion about game rules. Many replacements have lost control of games due to inexperience and unfamiliarity with players and rules.
The headlines are embarrassing: a scab working a game despite having been on the payroll of one of the teams, another who was assigned to referee a team he publicly supported on Facebook, and one who is a professional poker player when you propose even more stringent player rules on gambling.
It is lost on us as to how you allow a Commissioner to cavalierly issue suspensions and fines in the name of player health and safety yet permit the wholesale removal of the officials that you trained and entrusted to maintain that very health and safety. It has been reported that the two sides are apart by approximately $60,000 per team. We note that your Commissioner has fined an individual player as much in the name of “safety.” Your actions are looking more and more like simple greed. As players, we see this game as more than the “product” you reference at times. You cannot simply switch to a group of cheaper officials and fulfill your legal, moral, and duty obligations to us and our fans. You need to end the lockout and bring back the officials immediately.
We are all men who love and respect this game and believe that it represents something beyond just money. For our teammates, our coaches and our fans who deserve better, vote to end this lockout now.
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