NFL Referee Lockout

The NFL locked out their referees. They finally settled. They were using low-tier college referees as replacements. The referees from the big college leagues (BCS conferences) refused to work as replacements. These referees are normally considered for promotion to the NFL.

The NFL wanted several concessions from the referees. The NFL wanted to end the defined-benefit pension plan for referees. The NFL wanted to convert some (not all) referees to full-time employees. The NFL wanted to increase the total number of referee crews. By adding extra crews, that meant each referee would work fewer games per season and get paid less. The referees refused to give in, leading to the lockout. The referees were willing to work without a contract.

In 2011, the *TOTAL* salary pool for referees was $18M. That’s less than Peyton Manning gets paid. If you add in benefits, that’s only another couple million. If one star player was injured due to incompetent replacement referees, that costs the NFL more than referee salaries FOR AN ENTIRE SEASON.

“NFL referee” is a part-time job. Almost all referees have other jobs as lawyers, judges, doctors, or other professional careers. That gives the NFL very little leverage with the referees.

The lockout is silly. NFL referee salaries are a tiny fraction of overall league revenue. The disputed amount is negligible compared to NFL profits. Why should the NFL take the risk? The lockout comes from a desire to squeeze every last concession out of workers, rather than a serious evaluation of league expenses.

Even if the owners ceded every point to the referees, the total disputed amount was negligible compared to overall league salary. If one star player got injured due to incompetent replacement referees, that would cost *MUCH MORE THAN* the disputed amount.

When the players are locked out, a sports league stops operating. The referees are locked out, but the league keeps operating. Is that legal? Normally, in a lockout, a business stops operating. Is it legal to lock out workers and hire replacements, even if workers don’t strike?

I’m surprised that none of the referees challenged the legality of the lockout. Would the lockout be legal if the union decertified? Would the lockout be legal if a referee declared “financial core” and quit the union? However, all NFL referees are only given 1 year contracts, so that loophole might make the lockout legal.

The NFL is stupid for locking out their referees. The disputed amount is negligible compared to NFL profits. Most NFL referees have other jobs, which gives the NFL very little leverage.

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