The NFLRA Issues an Open Letter Regarding Lockout
By: Kim O'Hara | Posted: September 18, 2012
The NFLRA has spoken. In an open letter sent to all major media outlets, executive director Tim Millis addresses the major sticking point in negotiations, which revolves around the officials’ pension plan.
There are always two sides to every story, but by being the first to publicly issue a detailed account of the snags in negotiation with the NFL, the NFLRA has taken one further step in courting sympathy from both the media and football-watching public. Throw in the replacement referees’ increasing inability to exercise any significant measure of control over the players and coaches throughout the games they’re there to officiate (and the inherent risk of injury to players, coaches and officials themselves escalating as a result), and the NFL is looking more and more like a miserly bunch, refusing to reach a compromise that would ultimately result in the smallest of financial sacrifices.
According to the letter, the NFL is projected to rake in more than $9 billion in revenue annually. $9 billion. It’s a number we can’t begin to practically fathom, and at the end of the day, grandfathering in a defined-contribution pension plan (as opposed to instituting it cold turkey) would be a drop in the sea of money upon which the NFL happily floats.
After watching last night’s officiating nightmare, or the increasingly caustic Ravens-Eagles game, I’ve become less concerned about the calls these replacement officials make or miss. One can absolutely argue that regular referees have plenty of botched calls themselves; human error is an inescapable aspect of the game and yes, Jerry Jones, fans will always grumble. I continue to fear for player safety, as players are testing limitations to see how much they can get away with, and it is simply a matter of time before one or more players pay the price. I also worry about (to quote Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco, Giants defensive end Justin Tuck and what I’m sure will soon be a slew of additional players) the “integrity of the game”.
Setting aside the inconvenience of games running upwards of four hours, the evident absence of respect players and coaches exhibit toward these replacement officials (and the equally obvious deference/fear demonstrated in return) is compromising the product. Officials appearing to throw (or pick up) flags at the suggestion (to put it mildly) of players and coaching staff, and their inability to control jawing, shoving and all-out scrums does affect the quality of the game for everyone involved, from the participants on the field to the viewers at home.
The NFL finds itself at an inarguable financial advantage. The popularity of the game will not decrease, no matter who is calling the game or how many players’ seasons are affected. It can keep plugging replacement officials in each week, and we’ll keep turning out to stadiums in droves and tuning into broadcasts by the millions, regardless of how bad things get. And things can certainly get worse... just wait until Sunday.
Kim O'Hara is the Assocate Editor of TheFootballGirl.com. She is an avid fan of sports in general, but the NFL in particular. She has also been a contributor to ESPN the Magazine. Follow her on Twitter: @arahomik
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