NFL's Clinic For Replacement Refs An Indicator Lockout Will Continue Into Regular Season
The NFL is contemplating a "multiday clinic for replacement officials after the final preseason games,” a move that could be an "indication that the league is preparing for the lockout to continue into the regular season,” according to Judy Battista of the N.Y. TIMES. Locked-out referees said that they are “convinced they will not be back to work in time for the season opener Sept. 5.” One ref said, “The league is going to show us they don’t need us. Officials are like ticket takers, the ushers. The players are what the game is about.” But NFL Exec VP/Football Operations Ray Anderson said, “We’re not going to be strong-armed by officials who simply think they are irreplaceable and that the game can’t go on without them. And the game can’t be credible without them. They have talked themselves into believing they are part of the entertainment. Because owners and the league have done so well, that they should get a windfall or premium because we can afford it.” Battista notes the “appropriate grade” for the replacement refs during the opening week of the preseason lies “perhaps somewhere between the glaringly blown calls ... and the hundreds of correct flags.” Anderson yesterday called the replacement officials “credible.” But a locked-out official said that their work was “an embarrassment.” Fox' Mike Pereira, who formerly served as NFL VP/Officiating, said fans are “seeing nothing yet” in terms of the blown calls by replacement officials. Pereira: “Once the first week starts, it’s a whole different game. To think it won’t affect the game is being naïve" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/15). The NFL said that it “believes game officials will improve as preseason games proceed.” In DC, Cindy Boren wrote, “For the league’s sake, they had better.” Pereira said replacement officials are “really in over their heads.” But NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello said, “Overall the officials did a good job for the first week of preseason, and they will get better” (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 8/14).
WHERE THE DIFFERENCE LIES: CBSSPORTS.com’s Mike Freeman cited a member of the negotiating team of NFLRA, representing the locked-out refs, as saying that officials “would be happy to work full-time -- if they were paid like officials from Major League Baseball.” The statement was made “in response to an ESPN report that the NFL is prepared to enter the regular season with replacement officials.” The NFLRA “maintains no such discussion has taken place with them.” The official said that the “main hangup … is over economics, not more officials or full-time officials.” The difference in money is “what has brought the negotiations to a total standstill.” The official said, "Frankly, we are focused on getting a fair deal and getting back on the field by the third week of the pre-season -- not the third week of the regular season” (CBSSPORTS.com, 8/14). SI.com’s Peter King wrote the replacement officials are “in a tough spot, but they chose to put themselves in that spot.” King: “They, in effect, crossed a picket line in a nationally televised spotlight, and when one of them spots a punt at the 4-yard line and calls it a touchback -- I'm sorry, he's going to get skewered” (SI.com, 8/14).