Unions, scabs, policing, and when the end justifies the means

“Even before Monday, the psychedelic officiating had caused some near-hallucinogenic moments: The sight of Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Kevin Ogletree slipping on a hat mistakenly tossed on the field by a replacement referee, perhaps costing Dallas a touchdown”

The NFL referee brouhaha really got a boost with the latest Monday Night Football game. Bloomberg describes The NFL Fiasco: Why Referees Are Like Chicago Teachers

“However trifling in a financial sense, the lockout reflects a larger trend in the American workplace. The NFL and the NFLRA are wrestling over the same issues that dominated America’s other widely watched labor dispute: the Chicago teachers strike. While most accounts have focused on the NFL’s desire to do away with the NFLRA’s pension plan as the central sticking point in negotiations, a less talked-about, but equally contentious, issue is pay for performance.”

There are only about 120 NFL referees that make an average of $149,000 per year. The Union dispute is about a 7% pay raise and dealing with a larger bench for the part time job so that those referees who blow too many calls can be easily replaced.

There are many issues at play here. One is why the NFL had to dig down past the premier level of football referees to find replacements to fill in during the strike. Another is the popularity of the games. A third is about brand protection: pictures of two referees signalling opposing calls on the same event are starting to be rather popular.

There is also the problem of integrity in the teams. The Seahawks provided many examples of pushing the rules in an ‘end justifies the means’ attitude that was reinforced by their gloating after the game. It is this sort of attitude that is behind many of the injury issues the NFL is trying to ameliorate. Honor in the competition is suffering. That is something that goes to the core of the NFL brand. Low performance refereeing makes more of a difference when the players and teams have primary goals and objectives that are something other than playing a ‘clean’ game.

Comments are closed.