The NFL has locked out the members of the NFL Referees Association. The NFL Players Association has weighed in on the subject.
As we surmised earlier in the day, the issue could become the next front in the ever-growing fight between the league and the union.
“The NFL Players Association is concerned about the NFL’s decision to lock out professional referees and recruit scabs to serve as referees in NFL games for the 2012 season,” the NFLPA said in a statement released Monday.
“In 2011, the NFL tasked officials with increased responsibilities in protecting player health and safety, and its search for scabs undermines that important function. Professional athletes require professional referees, and we believe in the NFL Referees Association’s trained first responders. The NFLPA will continue to monitor the leagues actions in this situation.”
The comments from the NFLPA come after a flurry of developments starting with the league announcing that replacement officials would be recruited and trained and acknowledging that the officials have been locked out. The NFL Referees Association thereafter accused the NFL of never intending to work toward a fair agreement. And the NFL replied by pointing out that the NFLRA had planned to take a strike vote, and to drag out the negotiations until late in the summer. We did not begin to contact potential replacements until well after the union advised us in March of its intention to take a strike vote and told us of its plan to drag out the negotiations until late summer.
“The officials we are hiring are professionals who officiate games at a high level and have backgrounds similar to current NFL officials,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told PFT via email. ”We have every confidence that the officials who we bring on will do a fully credible job, and will manage our games efficiently and effectively enforce the playing rules.”
The NFLPA begs to differ. And on this point we tend to agree with the NFLPA. Absent significant financial incentives and guarantees, the best of the best non-NFL officials surely won’t walk away from their current officiating assignments with, for example, the NCAA and immerse themselves in learning the nuances of the NFL rule book, knowing that there’s every likelihood that, by the time the real games roll around, the NFL and the NFLRA will get a deal done.
And so the NFL will necessarily be getting something worse than the best officials. They won’t even be getting the second-best officials. Especially if some of the officials who are approached about serving as replacements resist the opportunity to serve as, well, scabs.