NFL Owners Are Hurting the Game with Ref Lockout

Yesterday was an incredible display of NFL replacement refs in over their heads. In game after game, blown calls had major impacts on the outcomes.

After watching the Bears game, I flipped from one game to another and saw botched calls in every one: Dolphins vs Jets, Vikings vs 49ers, Lions vs Titans. I didn’t even catch the more egregious ones, such as the missed calls on helmet to helmet hits on Tony Romo and Darrius Heyward-Bey.

I believe human error is part the game. Instant replay shouldn’t be employed in every situation. And it’s fair to expect a ref to make a knuckle-headed call every once in a while. Even the great Ed Hochuli is not immune to mistakes. But this is beyond simple error—this is incompetence.

We have no one but the owners to blame, as they continue the lockout of the referees over retirement benefits. Last night, after yet another blooper reel highlight during the Patriots-Ravens match, TV commentator Cris Collinsworth asked both sides to continue to negotiate. (You know it’s bad when you suddenly find yourself agreeing with Cris Collinsworth.)

Not just the fans and play-by-play announcers are howling for an end to the labor disagreement. The NFL Players Association wrote a letter to the owners yesterday, stating that the lockout “has led to a deterioration of order, safety, and integrity.”

The letter continues:

“It is lost on us as to how you allow a Commissioner to cavalierly issue suspensions and fines in the name of player health and safety yet permit the wholesale removal of the officials that you trained and entrusted to maintain that very health and safety. It has been reported that the two sides are apart by approximately $60,000 per team. We note that your Commissioner has fined an individual player as much in the name of ‘safety.’ Your actions are looking more and more like simple greed.”

Forbes reports there are 18 billionaires among the NFL’s 31 owners, far more than any other American sport. (The exception, of course, is the Green Bay Packers, which is owned by public shareholders, aka Wisconsin Cheeseheads.)

“Most made their own money, some primarily through their ownership stakes in their teams,” reports Forbes. “That says a lot about the power of the NFL—where else can a millionaire become a billionaire by buying a sports team and watching it grow?”

So what are the owners thinking in continuing this lockout? They certainly aren’t thinking about the players. They aren’t thinking about the fans. They aren’t thinking about the refs. Maybe they are just thinking of moving from millionaire to billionaire.

If you liked this story by Elizabeth DiNovella, the Culture Editor of The Progressive magazine, check out her story "Dark Money’s Dark Role in Wisconsin Races."

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