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League can’t fire locked-out refs

Oscar Shorten, Larry Skarpa, Robert Dalton

NFL officials Oscar Shorten (100), Larry Skarpa (103), and Robert Dalton (22) confer during the first half of an NFL football game with the Buffalo Bills and the Kansas City Chiefs in Orchard Park, N.Y., Sunday, Sept. 16, 2012. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert)


Despite the fact that more and more high-profile players are calling for the NFL to bring back the locked-out officials, plenty of fans continue to believe the league should play hardball.

In fact, even after a rough showing on Sunday from the replacement officials, we’re still hearing from some of you that the NFL should treat the locked-out officials the way Ronald Reagan treated the striking air-traffic controllers in 1981, firing them all and making the replacements the permanent officials.

Regardless of whether that would make good business sense, it legally can’t be done. Sources from both sides of this fight tell PFT that the league can’t permanently replace the locked-out officials because they have been locked out.

The fact that it’s a lockout nevertheless creates issues for the officials. As rumblings mount that some of them are ready to return to work, there’s no picket line to cross. None return until all return -- and the few who may want to cave will have to convince half of them plus one to vote to accept the league’s terms.

In this regard, the officials are at the mercy of the leadership of the union. As long as they can avoid a mutiny, the lockout will continue. If, however, at least 50 percent of them (again, plus one) get together and decide to take over, they can.