Not long ago, the NFL and the NFL Referees Association were involved in cooperative, collegial, and, consequently, boring negotiations. Since Sunday, the situation has deteriorated.
The league locked out the officials, and the NFL has commenced rounding up replacements for the 2012 season. The fans don’t seem to care, given the perception that the current officials aren’t any good. (Guess what? The replacements definitely won’t be any better.)
The parties then launched a public back-and-forth, with the NFLRA claiming the league never intended to work toward a fair deal and the NFL contending the officials planned to drag the process out until the season approached and launch a strike.
The NFLRA has now responded to the league’s response.
For starters, the officials contend that the league omitted reference to its plan to freeze and later terminate their pension plan. The officials then accuse the league of deliberately lying.
“The NFL stated that it did not take action to contact replacement officials until ‘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,’” says the NFLRA in a statement from lead negotiator Mike Arnold. “This is patently false. The NFLRA has never threatened to strike. After repeated references by the NFL during negotiations regarding its plans to obtain replacement officials the NFLRA briefed its members at its Annual Meeting on April 21, 2012. No strike vote was taken at the meeting. In fact the NFLRA’s directive to its membership was to prepare for the season and to perform each and every task assigned to them both before and after CBA expiration. This continues to be the position of the NFLRA. The NFLRA negotiating team expressly advised the NFL’s negotiating team of these directives at negotiating sessions held May 16, 2012 and May 21, 2012. The NFL’s claim to the contrary appears to be an attempt to divert attention from its predetermined lockout strategy.”
The public back-and-forth likely may or may not continue. At some point, however, the two sides need to work out their differences. It’s too early to tell who is or isn’t being reasonable. Here’s hoping both sides will be committed to finding a fair resolution that works for everyone.
Though the game officials definitely could improve their performance at times, using replacements could only make things worse. And the stewards of the game need to ensure that doesn’t happen.