If you’ve ever picked up a whistle and officiated your kids’ pee wee league or Pop Warner game, the NFL may be looking for you. OK, maybe not, but they really are looking for some new referees. It’s not because they think the current bunch is all bad, it’s because the 2012 version of offseason CBA drama involves the referees instead of the players.
The latest 6-year deal expired last week and talks have stalled, so the league is looking for replacements, who may come from non-BCS conferences, retired NCAA officials and the Arena League. What, are the CFL refs busy? Here’s a statement from the NFL:
Negotiations with the NFL Referees Association on a new collective bargaining agreement remain unresolved and the previous CBA has expired. Therefore, in order to ensure that there is no disruption to NFL games this season we will proceed immediately with the hiring and training of replacement officials.
Our goal is to maintain the highest quality of officiating for our teams, players, and fans, including proper enforcement of the playing rules and efficient management of our games.
To which the NFL Referees Association (and who knew such a thing existed) responded saying “the NFL of contacting possible replacement referees before the negotiating session had finished and said the league reviewed its offer for “fewer than five minutes” before rejecting it.”
Not to let the league and referees have all the fun, the NFL Players Association issued a statement of their own:
“The NFL Players Association is concerned about the NFL’s decision to lock out professional referees and recruit scabs to serve as referees in NFL games for the 2012 season,” the statement reads. “In 2011, the NFL tasked officials with increased responsibilities in protecting player health and safety, and its search for scabs undermines that important function. Professional athletes require professional referees, and we believe in the NFL Referees Association’s trained first responders. The NFLPA will continue to monitor the league’s actions in this situation.”
It’s this kind of bickering that makes me think we won’t be seeing an Ed Hochuli or Gene Steratore in 2012. What do you think? Will the league and referees reach an agreement before the season begins? Do you think that scab officials will hurt competition or player safety? Do you even care who’s wearing the zebra stripes?