Though it completely sucks that a blown call(s) leading to a heartbreaking Packers loss presumably served as the catalyst, NFL.com is reporting that the NFLRA and NFL have finally come to an agreement, officially ending the lockout of the regular referees, who will return to work this evening’s Baltimore-Cleveland match-up.
Thus, the dark shadow hanging over the first 48 games of the NFL season has been lifted, and watching football games will be less like playing replacement-ref roulette, waiting for a phantom or missed call on each play, and more like watching the most talented athletes in the world trying to outperform their opponents.
I think it is important to note here that the referees were locked out by the NFL, representing the greediest, most money-grubbing people on this planet, i.e. the team owners. The referees would have been happy to work whilst they and the NFL worked out their differences — namely that the NFL wanted to end their pension program, provide a (relatively) paltry raise to the union refs, and add a so-called “taxi” team of 21 replacement refs that the league could swap in for regular refs who the latter felt were under-performing (I am pretty sure we saw not one example of a replacement ref who could outperform a union ref in the first three weeks of the season.) This lockout was just another attempt at the NFL using its position of having, as explained by Steve Young, inelastic demand for its product to push around its union partners (see last year’s player lockout). Ultimately, the refs were eyeing a total of less than 1% of the NFL’s annual revenue, but the owners and their lackey, commissioner Roger Goodell, would have none of it.
In the end, I am not entirely sure the NFLRA received all that it sought, considering the new agreement will see the end of the current pension program in 2016 and the NFL may build said taxi team, but the contributions to the subsequent 401(k) program seem sizable and their raises do not seem insignificant either. I am utterly surprised that the events in Seattle had any impact on these discussions, considering the NFL has shown that it cares little about anything aside from money, and that demand was probably not going to be affected, even after the now infamous “Fail Mary” play in Seattle. The union refs were clearly shown to possess a unique skill set, but I would have thought that means little by way of leverage if, even while the product suffers, demand stays the same. The only thing I can posit is that the NFL did in fact fear a decrease in demand, though how that would affect a league that has TV contracts extending through 2021, I do not know. Ticket and merchandise sales, maybe?
But that’s enough of looking the gift-horse in the mouth. Starting tonight, the NFL we know and love, will be back. Let’s take a moment to bid the replacement refs adieu — it’s been sometimes exasperating, sometimes comical, but mostly awful:
[Image Source: Thinh Nguyen]