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NFLRA responds to league’s effort to create “bench” of officials


On Tuesday, NFL V.P. of football operations Ray Anderson made a compelling case for the development of a bench of officials, who would replace during the season “starting” officials whom the league believes should be removed from action.

On Wednesday, the NFL Referees Association responded.

“The concept of hiring an additional 21 officials was raised for the first time by the NFL by a letter dated July 19, 2012,” NFLRA spokesman Mike Arnold told PFT via email. “It proposed that the NFL could hire 21 additional officials but not pay them – it wants the current 121 officials to pay them. This is not fair or reasonable and demonstrates that it is a negotiating ploy not a serious proposal.”

It seemed like a serious proposal on Tuesday. Anderson was passionate, and persuasive, regarding his views on the topic.

“If the NFL was seriously concerned about this issue why was it never raised or discussed in the 10 months of negotiations prior to July 19?” Arnold said. “The answer is obvious – it is not a serious proposal at all.”

The NFL contends that the late addition of the issue makes it no less important. “That’s how collective bargaining works,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told PFT via email. “Concepts develop as you bargain. It happened in the CBA negotiations.”

The question of whether it’s a serious proposal will depend on how aggressively the NFL pushes it. If the league surrenders on the point in exchange for a concession by the officials on another issue, then maybe it really was a ploy.

If it is a ploy, it shouldn’t be. It’s important to have real accountability, in every line of work.

The NFLRA says that accountability already exists. “The current 121 NFL officials are professionals dedicated to maintaining a high standard of officiating,” Arnold said. “The NFL utilizes a detailed evaluation system to grade officials on every play of every game. The NFL has indicated that the accuracy percentage of the real referees is 98% - 99%. The Commissioner recently confirmed this and has stated that the NFL respects and values its real officials. Clearly Ray Anderson hasn’t gotten the message from the Commissioner as he continues his ill informed attacks on the real officials.

“The reality is that the NFL monitors its real officials constantly and has a training program in place to immediately address any performance issues. This coupled with the real officials pride and professionalism have always made them accountable,” Arnold added. “This latest from Ray Anderson is a distraction from the real focus which is to get back to the table to work toward reaching a fair CBA.”

We hope that happens. But it may not occur until the pendulum swings one way or the other after the first set of regular-season games.