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It’s On: Talks Break Down with NFL and Refs, League to Hire Replacements

By Alan Schechter
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Jan 22, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; NFL referee Ed Hochuli (85) during the second quarter of the 2011 NFC Championship game between the San Francisco 49ers and the New York Giants at Candlestick Park. Mandatory Credit: Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE

Well, it’s not the lockout of 2011, but it still could be a problem.

If you haven’t heard yet, talks broke off between the NFL and its referees, and the league is going ahead with hiring and training replacement refs.

“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,” the league said in a statement.

A mediated negotiation took place over the weekend, to no avail, so the league plans to go ahead with its program for replacements later in the month.

The referees association fired off against the league today, saying that they were talking to replacement refs before the negotation ended, and took a mere five minutes to review the refs final offer before turning it down and terminating the session.

“It is now clear the league never intended to work toward a fair agreement, even through mediation,” the statement reads. It also includes a promise that “our organization’s professional referees will continue preparing for the 2012 NFL season to the best of their abilities, despite the NFL’s refusal to provide them with vital training and educational materials.”

The NFLPA sounded their opinion on the situation. They were concerned, and seem to fall on the referees’ side:

“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.”

Don’t put much stock in the players siding with the referees. Their relationship with the league has been tenuous since the negotiations last year, and now with Bountygate it has been even worse. Their siding against the league really isn’t a surprise.

This obviously won’t get the same type of press that the lockout of 2011 received. This will be interesting, though, especially if it lingers until the start of the season. We all have varying opinions as to the performance of the current refs, it might get worse with the replacements, though let’s hope not.

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