Could referee lockout result in player strike?


As the NFL and its referees union rocket toward the playing of games without the usual game officials, a serious question is emerging regarding whether the players will submit to games officiated by folks replacing the locked-out men in black, and white.

“We’ll see what the decision is as we get closer to the day,” NFLPA president Domonique Foxworth told PFT Live on June 5.  “Hopefully, they can figure this out in an amicable way as soon as possible.  I’m not sure what the decision is going to be from the Players Association when that day comes.”

That day is coming.  The preseason begins on August 5, only 12 days from now.

Though NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith has yet to disclose the union’s plans, it’s clear that he has concerns.

Asked to gauge his level of discomfort regarding the absence of the regular officials for regular-season games, Smith went off the charts.  “On a scale of 1 to 10?  Twelve,” Smith tells Peter King of Sports Illustrated.  “The officials are being asked to be first-responders on the field for player safety as well as to officiate the games.  How do you expect officials not used to doing games at that level to be able to step in and handle the job?  To use a [lockout] as a motivational tactic in negotiations . . . we find repulsive.’’

While the Collective Bargaining Agreement contains a no-strike/no-lockout clause that prevents a work stoppage during the 10-year term of the deal, the CBA doesn’t expressly prohibit a sympathy strike, in which the players would respect the game officials’ picket line.  The players could, in theory, boycott games under that principle.

The players also could refuse to work based on the argument that replacement officials create an “abnormally dangerous” working condition.  And that wouldn’t necessarily be a frivolous claim.  As King points out, Division I conferences won’t allow their officials to serve as NFL replacements in 2012.  The conferences permitted officials to work as replacements during a 2001 lockout that lasted through the first week of the regular season.

“That means the replacements will come from lower levels of college football, some retired and/or dismissed college officials, and high schools,” King writes.

That also means the replacements will be something far less than the best of the best officials.  Thus, when the NFL specifically required game officials to monitor players for signs of concussions during the 2011 season, the league unwittingly set the stage for a showdown with players on whether replacement officials compromise player safety.

It would be easy for the NFL to simply remove that responsibility from the replacement officials, but the fact that the NFL gave those duties to the game officials in 2011 supports a claim that it’s now a necessary component of player safety.

It nevertheless would be risky — and potentially very expensive — for the NFLPA to call for a sympathy strike or a walkout based on allegations of abnormally dangerous conditions and later to lose in court on whether the strike/work stoppage was legal.  The players would be responsible for the losses incurred by the owners, which would be significant given the refunds to ticket purchasers and network partners.

Then there’s the P.R. fallout that would come from a player-initiated work stoppage, along with the question of whether the NFLPA would be able to persuade players to do something they ultimately refused to do in 2011:  sacrifice game checks.

Regardless of how this one plays out, the looming possibility of lost games will make fans who don’t currently care about the referee lockout change their tune.


35 responses to “Could referee lockout result in player strike?

  1. Oh great, so many good things happened last time they let this joker do anything in the name of the players.

  2. Now they are worried about player saftey, again?

    Officials, first responders, lol. What has a Ref really done to help a player after an injury other then blow the clock dead and wave team trainers in? Nothing else.

    That whole response is pure phony.

  3. 1. Please do strike ruin your product and piss the fans truly off.

    2. The regular refs aren’t that great in the first place.

    3. Have u considered how much you rich sob’s have already annoyed the true fand? Nothing but negativity has come out of the NFL off season, player arrest, bounty gate, collusion lawssuit and the bogus penalty imposed on Dallas and Washington…do I need to go on?

  4. If the players go out on a sympathy strike over the officials they will have no support from the fans. There will be a dropoff in the qulaity of officiating, but after a couple weeks you’ll see the replacements get better at it.

    The league can pony up for an extra 2 officials per game to monitor each sideline for concussion symptoms when players come off the field and they could also be extra eyes for some close calls that the current refs have their little conferences on depending on where they occur on the field

  5. Smith, shut up already, you got what you wanted for the players last year now get to work and leave the ref negotiations to the refs union and NFL.

  6. I think of the players pulled a sympathy strike that it would seriously anger fans not just for the short term either. Players would have a hard time getting the fans back on their side. As for the reality of life…….it’s get more ridiculous by the day. The new CBA says “no strike” for 10 years but yet leave it to a lawyer to argue that it doesn’t specify for what reason. Enough of players and the league lawyering up everytime someone doesn’t get their freakin’ way. Kids act more mature than these clowns. Ever since Bill Clinton pulled his “it depends what the definition of is …”, lawyers have went crazy with this type of an arguement. Sickening and the fans deserve better !!!!

  7. referees were required to check for concussions in 2011? Colt McCoy would tell ya they blew that call too….

  8. So sick of the refs whining. Does anybody realize that with the NFL’s offer to the refs, the average ref would stand to see pay increases throughout the length of the contract resulting in a salary of over $150k pr year as a PART TIME job?! These guys are also principles, lawyers, business men who don’t slouch at their full time job either. We could also mention all expenses are covered and that’s no gripe either. So what do they want? To see 7 figures?! They need to shut up sign up and show up. This is getting old fast.

    We miss you Ed Hercules.

  9. As we saw during last years’ lockout no member of the NFLPA will risk losing a game check.

    They accepted a rushed deal that was heavily weighted toward the owners in order to make sure they got paid. Does anyone think they’ll give up games checks for the zebras?

  10. im behind the ayers,an NFLPA.The owners cant do what they want .Witbout the players their ass doesnt make a penny..FIRE ROGER GOODELL

  11. Seriously, a major overhaul of the old refs needed to be done a long time ago, I know they are human but the calls or lack there of that they made on so many occasion last year made me wonder were they already using replacement refs.

  12. Absolutely NO CHANCE of his happening. Players aren’t going to miss games (money) because of officials. Most probably would like the “scabs” as they’ll get away with more.

  13. “While the Collective Bargaining Agreement contains a no-strike/no-lockout clause that prevents a work stoppage during the 10-year term of the deal…”

    That is all you need to know right there. If the whining, entitlement crybabies in the NFLPA strike again my son and I will watch NCAA football exclusively from now on.

  14. DeMaurice Smith can’t be serious. How could he, or anyone, advise the players to strike? The financial risks are not big, they’re monumental. Not only would the players lose their individual paychecks, they’d also be on the hook for the owner’s lost revenue. If that were to occur it would bankrupt every player in the league. Literally.

    First, the NFLPA counsels Hargrove and the others to walk out of their suspension hearings which likely deprived them of any legitimate shot at winning in court. Now, the union is suggesting it may advise the players to risk their entire financial net worth because of who is scheduled to referee their games.

    I really feel bad for the players.

  15. “”dldove77 says:
    Jul 24, 2012 8:15 PM
    I really hate unions.”


    Go visit the coal miners, truck drivers, mill workers, factory workers, fruit pickers, steel hangers and the child laborers who made this country what it… used to be… and tell them how much you hate them.

    And don’t you worry, you can count on me to help. I will fight for, and defend, your right to say it because I want you to live in a country where you are free to say whatever you believe.

  16. I’m not sure how a “no strike” clause translates into being bale to “sympathy” strike. I’m not a lawyer but I would guess that “no strike” means “no strike”.

  17. I kind of like the idea. Thing about it, it would be like hitting the reset button.

    1) Replacement Refs: Blown call has an easy excuse, and during preseason everyone goes through a relearning curve anyway.

    2) Replacement Players: You mean non arrested happy to be on the field getting a chance players? Give them the same break as the refs on a dropped pass, missed route, or false start.

    3) It will only work if the price on everything drops. Game tickets, parking, vending, players salary, Direct TV Ticket (OH wait already dropped), merchandise, and the list of a hundred things I left off.

    In this day where I am watching my neighbors, friends, co-workers, friends of friends, and basically everyone struggle to catch a break….

    Hit the reset button.

  18. However the situation shakes out, there will be referees on the field, whether they’re of the standard overpaid selfish bankers / lawyers / corporate officials or inexperienced by NFL standards zebras, the players ain’t in no way, shape or form gonna give up a paycheck or three just so the Ed Hochulis of the world can pad there already fat wallets.

  19. “To use a [lockout] as a motivational tactic in negotiations . . . we find repulsive” De Smith. So lockout is repulsize but when players threaten to strike to get their way it is just good tactics? This whole issue is the NFL wants to switch pension to 401(k) for referees that are part time employees, something many fortune 500 companies do everyday.

    Dear refs, you work 15-20 days a year and are better compensated for your time than the average American who has to work all year! Take your 401(k) and stop your pathetic whining!

  20. Is it just me, or is anyone else starting to think of other things to do on Sunday’s besides watch football? These greedy pigs, both the players and management, are ruining the once beloved game of mine and now I’m starting to care less more and more about it.

  21. Foxworth doesn’t care about referees, replacement referees or the impact on player safety. This is just yet another rather sad and transparent attempt to gain a concession from the league in another area.

    “Hey Roger, how about we leave the officials thing alone and you forget about HGH testing for a while yeah? Good man!”

  22. the NFL makes a killing.maybe they should share more of the billions they make with the refs,especially since they are asking them to be everything from principal to doctors on the field!

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