With legalized gambling spreading, it’s more important than ever for the NFL to create the impression that it’s doing everything it can to ensure that officials get as many calls right as possible. And so, of course, the NFL has put its full-time officiating program on ice.
Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com reports that the league has shelved full-time officiating as part of ongoing labor discussions with the NFL Referees Association. This means that NFL officials will revert to being part-time employees, which presumably stinks for those NFL officials who had become full-time employees (and in turn given up their other part-time gigs).
It’s undoubtedly a bargaining tactic by the NFL, which showed in 2012 that it’s more than willing to compromise the quality of officiating (and in turn the integrity of the game) by locking out the officials and hiring replacements. After three embarrassing weekends, the league resolved the work stoppage.
The current labor deal between the NFL and its officials runs through March 2020. Which likely means that the NFL will once again be pennywise and pound foolish, undervaluing a function that become far more important as the NFL is poised to make millions more from the legalization of sports wagering.