With the first game approaching, Sunday August 5th, the National Football League Players Association has a major concern, who’s officiating our games? Since June 4th the NFL Referees have been locked out by the NFL as both sides attempt to reach a common ground and negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement. With the season quickly approaching and an agreement has yet been met, the potential for lower division college officials and high school refs have become an increased possibility.
DeMaurice King, NFLPA Executive Director, spoke with Peter King of Sports Illustrated.
Asked to gauge his level of discomfort regarding the absence of the regular officials for regular-season games, Smith went off the charts. “On a scale of 1 to 10? Twelve,” Smith tells Peter King of Sports Illustrated. “The officials are being asked to be first-responders on the field for player safety as well as to officiate the games. How do you expect officials not used to doing games at that level to be able to step in and handle the job? To use a [lockout] as a motivational tactic in negotiations . . . we find repulsive.’’
So what can the players do? Under the newly constructed Collective Bargaining Agreement, it contains a no strike/no lockout clause that prevents a work stoppage during the 10 year term of the deal. Like always, theres a loop hole, the CBA doesn’t prohibit a sympathy strike in which the players could respect the officials picket line, in which they could boycott under that theory. The players could also refuse to work based on the agreement that substitute officials could create an “abnormally dangerous” working condition.
With the NFL also facing lawsuits from previous players about concussions, the concern from the NFLPA doesn’t seem too far fetched. Safety of players have been a major concern, even Jeremy Shockey recently tweeted his disgust of Roger Goodell’s lack of concern of player safety. Officials are first respondents on the field, with college and even HS refs officiating, they aren’t use to the speed or athleticism of NFL players and probably wouldn’t have the same reaction time as normal NFL officials.
Its a tough situation for all parties involved, I just hope an agreement can be reached. A great NFL season relies on not just players but also great officials. Officials see everything we don’t by being first responders, throwing out flags that could determine games, or that dreadful chain to show us that our team is 4th and inches. Players and Fans need responsible, equipped and experienced officials on the field to not only protect our players but also our game.
Hopefully by Sunday this is resolved.