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NFLRA release hints at $30 million in dispute

Jacksonville Jaguars v New Orleans Saints

NEW ORLEANS, LA - AUGUST 17: NFL officials work the game between the New Orleans Saints and the Jacksonville Jaguars at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on August 17, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

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After a failed effort at the eleventh hour to resolve a work stoppage that threatens to undermine the game of pro football by using a collection of replacement officials with too many members who aren’t ready for a stage of this magnitude, the NFL Referees Association has issued a new press release attacking the league for a “misinformation campaign.”

But an attempt at the conclusion of the release to characterize the financial portion of the dispute as trivial could backfire. The NFLRA says that the compensation increase its members seek along with the continuation of the defined benefit pension plan (i.e., the employer invests the money and the employees always get the same amount even if the market goes to hell in a handbag) would cost “about 1/3 of 1% of its $9 billion in revenues.”

Seems small, right? But that translates to $30 million. And the NFLRA doesn’t explain whether that’s over the course of a year or over the length of the deal.

It’s a clumsy effort, in our view, to make the league look greedy. Especially since a fairly limited exercise in number crunching reveals that the stuff the NFLRA wants over and above that which the NFL has offered results in a gap of $252,100 per official.

The release from the NFLRA also makes no mention of the non-economic portion of the dispute. One source with knowledge of the situation claims that the union is resisting aggressively the effort to create a bench of backups who would replace during the season any officials who are underperforming.

“It continues to mystify any objective observer of the situation why the NFL would jeopardize the safety of its players, the integrity of the game and the quality of its product in order to continue its attack on its professional referees,” the NFLRA contends.

What’s not mystifying is that the locked-out officials apparently have decided to take full advantage of the perception/reality of replacement incompetence in order to get every penny of that 1/3 of 1% of $9 billion. And the more they try to point the finger at the NFL for the absence of a deal, the more they risk that others will start to point the finger at them.