I love the NFL, but the people in charge of the league are making it really difficult to support them lately. The Press-Gazette reported on the talks between the league and the NFL Referees Association today, and talks about a collective bargaining agreement have broken down to the point that the L-word is back in our vocabulary.
It's possible that the referees are asking for too much in compensation and benefits, but it looks difficult to make that argument, especially when the NFLRA describes the league as having "terminated negotiations" despite sitting down for mediation over the weekend. Now the league is looking to college football for replacements:
The NFL’s search would target retired college officials and perhaps current ones who would be qualified to work professional games. Referees counsel Mike Arnold called those replacements "amateur referees."
Arnold goes on to say that the use of these replacement referees would put the players safety in danger and that they are "under-qualified" to officiate in the NFL. The other issue I am concerned about is the quality of these replacements; would they be well-versed in the NFL rulebook to ensure a consistent interpretation of the NFL's rules? We have enough trouble with the varied interpretations of blows to the head or roughing the passer calls with the normal NFL officials.
It seems on the surface that it would be in the league's best interests to put the best referees on the field and ensure consistency and the quality of the on-field product as best they can. Of course, we don't know the specifics of this deal or what either side is arguing for, but it reflects poorly on the league that they have walked away from mediated negotiations with their players and their officials in back-to-back years.