SBD/August 31, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Focus On NFL Replacement Refs To Intensify With Regular Season Start

It could take a week for officials to get back on the field after a deal is signed
The NFL regular season kicks off next week, and with the games counting, the "focus will intensify on replacement referees,” according to Clifton Brown of SPORTING NEWS. Negotiations between the NFL and the NFL Referees Association heading into Labor Day weekend “remained at an impasse,” and it is uncertain “when an agreement will be reached." Whenever a new deal is signed, it will “take the regular officials at least another week to get back on the field.” NFL Exec VP/Football Operations Ray Anderson said, "It takes two sides to reach an agreement. We believe we have made an aggressively fair proposal. They have a different opinion. Hopefully there will come a point when we will get back to the table, but I don’t know when that might occur.” He added, “Hopefully we don’t look up and it’s Week 16, and this thing’s still not done." One NFL player said, "I’m really concerned, because of a lack of consistency that I know is going to happen." Another player said, "I’m sure they’re going to miss a whole bunch of calls, and I’m sure they’re going to let a whole bunch of things go. In our first preseason game they did. It was ridiculous." NFLRA President Scott Green: "We are willing at any point to talk. But they were sending out letters to replacement officials while we were supposedly still negotiating. All we want is a fair deal. We’re talking about something that represents less than 1/3 of one percent of the NFL revenues" (, 8/30). ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the “feeling around the league always has been that at some point right around Labor Day there would be a window of opportunity for these two sides to get back together to see if they could resolve their differences” (“NFL Live,” ESPN, 8/30). Chargers GM A.J. Smith said, “The commissioner and the league are handling that situation. As far as what I would say if we lost a game due to a mistake -- not much. What good would it do? You can’t take it back. You move on to the next game. We had a colossal mistake made by an official in years past that cost us a game. You move on” (, 8/30).

THE LEAGUE MAKING A STATEMENT HERE: In Boston, Christopher Gasper writes, “Tossing a false-start flag at the NFL for its plan to use replacement officials to start the season is warranted.” After years of “telling us how uniquely qualified their regular officials were, the NFL is basically trying to sell the football-consuming public the idea that anybody with a whistle and a dream can officiate games.” Gasper: "As long as the NFL employs ersatz whistleblowers, it is defaulting on its own obligation to live up to the commish’s words. It’s also engaging in hypocrisy.” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell “issued a gag order earlier this summer on coaches and players criticizing the replacement refs.” Gasper: “No complaining about your unsafe working conditions, guys” (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/31). In Phoenix, Kent Somers writes, “The NFL is being hypocritical. Again.” League officials “talk about what a privilege it is to play and work in the NFL, and how those who work under the league's shield should be careful not to tarnish the brand.” But the NFL “looks cheap in this stand-off.” Somers: “Get to the negotiating table. Get a deal done” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 8/31). SportsNet N.Y.'s Sal Licata said, "Hopefully, it’s just one week and then the NFL learns the lesson, and then the outcry from that point forward gets the real officials back on the field because right now it’s a joke” (“The Wheelhouse,” SportsNet N.Y., 8/30). But in Providence, Jim Donaldson writes, “I don’t think it’ll be the end of the world … if the replacement refs have to work for a week, or two, or even three.” He adds, “It’s not like anybody’s paying anything to watch the refs” (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL, 8/31).

SURVEY SAYS: SPORTING NEWS recently surveyed 148 NFL players and asked them to rate Goodell's performance as commissioner. A total of 12 called his work “excellent,” while 89 said it was “satisfactory” and 38 described it as “poor.” Bills LB Arthur Moats said, “Satisfactory. When you’re looking for a guy to be a judge in every situation and every case, you’re never going to be perfect. But I feel like he’s doing a pretty good job.” But Jaguars CB and NFLPA rep Rashean Mathis said, “Poor. I think we as players feel it’s more of a dictatorship than a democracy. Are we working together as a whole in the NFL or is it just one man deciding everything?” (, 8/30).
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