One day after NFL employee Deion Sanders told players that the game can go on without them but not without officials, the window has opened for officials to go on without the game, for the 2020 season.
The NFL Referees Association has announced that a deal has been reached with the league for the 2020 season. It includes the ability to opt out through Thursday, August 13.
According to the NFLRA, any official who opts out will receive a payment of $30,000. The press release doesn’t specify whether the amount represents a salary advance or a non-refundable payment, but a source with knowledge of the situation tells PFT the amount will not have to be repaid. The opt-out rights apply to game officials and replay officials, and the test is simply whether the official “has concerns related to COVID-19.”
“Any official who chooses to take a leave of absence is guaranteed job protection and may return for the 2021 season,” the NFLRA release explains.
For officials who don’t opt out, any positive test during the 2020 season “will be treated as an injury sustained while performing a League-sanctioned or required activity,” which will entitle the official “to injury pay, medical expenses and other applicable benefits.”
For officials who test positive or become ill at a game site, the NFL will cover “medical expenses, lodging and travel expenses.”
“There is nothing more important than the health and safety of our members,” NFLRA executive director Scott Green said in the press release. “Although there will undoubtedly be some risk for our officials, we are pleased to have finalized a plan with the League that provides additional benefits and protections during this unprecedented season.”
The NFLRA board of directors voted unanimously to approve the plan. Full membership will review the details tomorrow. It’s unclear whether a vote of full membership is required to officially adopt the deal; PFT has posted that question to Green.