NFL Referees Still Locked Out and Replaced By Scabs
I am a Green Bay Packer Fan. I bleed green and gold. I have been a Packer fan for as long as I can remember, even when they weren’t very good. When I was in the Army and stationed in Germany I remember getting quite a bit of crap from members of my platoon when I stayed up until 2:00 am to watch a Packers-Bears game ... and then “Refrigerator” Perry scored a touchdown on the Pack during that game. I did not live that one down for months. I can cite the names and stats of Packer players I never saw play the game. I wear a Ray Nitchske jersey whenever I watch the Packers play.
Want to know the one thing I have never really paid attention to in my years of being a Packer fan? The officiating. Yes, like every other fan I have yelled and screamed about bad officiating in a game. However, in most cases, if the officials are doing their job correctly, no one notices them. In the past few weeks we have seen scab officials taking the place of referees who are members of the National Football League Referees Association (NFLRA). To say that fans and sportswriters have noticed the scab referees would be an understatement. I do have a bone to pick with the media on the reporting of this lockout. They are not replacement officials. They are scabs.
Why is the NFL locking out officials? The short answer is money. The long answer is also money; however, there are some details that need to be mentioned. First off, NFL officials are part-time employees. They all hold down other jobs during the year. What you may not know is that during the season they put in 35-40 hours a week going over film, rosters, and do game study before every game. This is not a, “fly in on Saturday afternoon and fly out Sunday night” gig. They also must know the rulebook inside and out and be in good enough shape to keep up with young men at the peak of physical fitness. Now the official’s compensation for a part-time job is not really that shabby. It is around $78,000 a year. However, when compared to other leagues with comparable positions it is on the low side:
[C]omparable positions in other professional sports at the 20-year level earn approximately $350,000 to $400,000 and are provided health insurance, a pension, time off with pay and numerous other benefits."
I am not going to get into the salary or full-time official disputes; those issues will be resolved fairly quickly. The biggest issue is that of the referees' pension plan. ESPN reports that,
[T]here is a stalemate over the officials' pension plan, which the union said the league plans to freeze and ultimately terminate. The NFLRA offered to "grandfather" the current defined benefit plan only for current officials.
The league is offering a 401(k) plan in which it said its last proposal would provide annual contributions averaging about $20,000.
On Monday, August 20 in Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback column, which I read religiously, Mr. King stated:
The officials have to drop their demand to keep a pension that's better than full-time NFL employees have, and the league has to jack up the money it has offered by $10 million or $12 million over the seven-year life of the contract. It's time. I can't say it better than Bears cornerback Charles Tillman did late Saturday night: "Can we get our refs back? ... Replacement refs aren't cutting it.''
The league wants to, like much of corporate America, get rid of a defined benefit program and put the money into 401(k) accounts. I do not know the details of the refs pension plan; however, that is one demand they should not back down from. For too long we have allowed Wall Street to profit off of our retirement savings. Mr. King is wrong when he says the refs should give up the pension plan. This is the one place where they need to hold their ground, for all of us. The loss of defined benefit programs has been a disaster for retirement savings, anyone who has a 401(k) has seen what has happened to their retirement savings over the last few years. We were all sold a bill of goods that promised us riches beyond our wildest dreams that would see us through our sunset years ... what we got was a bucket of rotten fish.
Personally, I would like to see the NFLPA (National Football League Players Association) members vote to not participate in any games officiated by scabs. The players union should show solidarity with the referees union. If Charles Tillman wants his refs back, then maybe he and every other player needs to stand up with the refs in solidarity.