SBD/July 19, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL Refs Say No New Negotiating Sessions Planned, Raise Concerns About Player Safety

Referees pointed out player safety could be key ramification of NFLRA lockout
Locked-out NFL referees say no new negotiating sessions are scheduled with the league, though the group wants them to start. Speaking on a midday conference call, NFL Referees Association Exec Dir Mike Arnold said the league’s strategy had been to lock out the refs, which occurred at midnight on June 3 after the CBA expired May 31. The NFLRA contends the league is putting player safety at risk by recruiting replacements, which the group termed “scabs,” for a minimal cost savings. The referees union's last proposal is $16.5M more over five years than the league’s own, Arnold said. The two sides are also split on pensions, with the league wanting to immediately move all referees to a 401k-type system, while the NFLRA wants existing members to continue receiving pensions. A source familiar with the league’s proposal said it offered a seven-year deal with increases of 5-11%. Arnold said the referees, who had been negotiating since October '11, last month offered a proposal that reduced the officials’ demands, but the league took five minutes to reject it. The NFL issued a statement saying, "We have negotiated in good faith for the past nine months. We are available to meet with the NFLRA at any time to negotiate a new contract" (Daniel Kaplan, SportsBusiness Journal). Arnold said, "Why would an organization with $9.3 billion in revenues which is expected to rise to $12-14 billion in the foreseeable future jeopardize the health and safety of its players and the integrity of the game by hiring scab officials? The difference in our compensation request and what they have offered is insignificant when you compare it to (total) revenue." He added, "We think it’s a reasonable request, especially given the compensation level in other sports" (FOXSPORTS.com, 7/18). NFLRA President Scott Green said, "Lockout seems to be their negotiating strategy with everyone. We don't want to be locked out. We want to get back to the table and get this resolved." The league responded that it "began the process of hiring replacements when the officials told the NFL of their intention to authorize a strike" (AP, 7/18).

JEOPARDIZING SAFETY?
 THE SPORTS XCHANGE's Len Pasquarelli noteed, "NFL game officials yesterday raised a somewhat unexpected issue that could be one key ramification of a lockout. Player safety." It is a "significant issue potentially, but one that had not previously generated much attention" (THE SPORTS XCHANGE, 7/18). CBSSPORTS.com's Mike Freeman noted an NFL memo sent to scouts in June "basically outlines what the NFL wants in its replacement refs." Freeman: "And what they want is scary. ... The NFL is going to trust its billion-dollar business to semi-pro refs and dudes who just got off the back nine?" (CBSSPORTS.com, 7/18).
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