According the CBS Sports, the locked out NFL officials are prepared to hold out for months, and the financial gap between the officials and the NFL appears to widening, now thought to be in the area of $70 million. It seems that the officials are smelling blood in the water, thanks to horrendous officiating by replacement officials during the pre-season. As a result, the officials are now striking back at the NFL to take advantage of their leverage.
“This is a battle of right and wrong,” one official said. “We are willing to wait for as long as it takes.”
The officials seem to think a longer holdout will strengthen their position even further as the replacement officials continue to make mistakes, and even decide games with poor calls. And there is plenty of reason to think that this will happen. But any public sympathy that NFL fans have for the plight of the officials will be destroyed as a result. Yes, as NFL fans we realize that the NFL is very, very frugal with its money (i.e., cheap) and generally won’t part with a dollar that it doesn’t have to. But as a fan, when I see a bad call decide a game, I will hold both the league and the officials responsible for failing to get a deal done and protect the integrity of the game. And I don’t think that I am the only fan who will do so.
I don’t expect the officials to accept a bad deal. But to cast this as a battle of right and wrong, good and evil, is the wrong path to take for the sake of the game. The NFL is right to insist on full-time officials, and the officials are right to expect proper pay. And while some fans may balk at the salaries being discussed for officiating a game, the fact is that the NFL is a multi-billion dollar industry that involves (many) millionaires playing a game, and playing it well, for our entertainment. The officials, who are responsible for making sure the game is called accurately and kept safe, are worth the investment. Ironically, part of the problem is that the officials are all gainfully employed outside of the NFL, and many of the officials are already wealthy individuals. Thus, they will sit back and live comfortably while we fans sit and watch the game we love turned into a farce.
Previously, I had encouraged the Commissioner and the league to get this deal done for the sake of the game. I encourage the officials to do the same.