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NFL, referee union deal is not near



League, NFLRA turn back on each other, fans

A replacement official announcing a Week 1 call.

The lockout of the NFL’s officials will continue into the regular season, as the league and the union failed to broker a collective bargaining agreement over the weekend. Talks began in earnest on Friday, after negotiations were in a deep freeze for 34 days, leading us to believe that a “deal may be near“.

We admit, we have been caught in the negotiation spin cycle. And we are not happy with it.

If the information leaked to the press is indicative of the actual talks, then there is no doubt why there is no agreement. While one side says X, the other side says 6. It is as if word fans out from both sides by being whispered down like some high-stakes version of the telephone game.

How this affects our coverage. Because our readers deserve better, we are not going to be chasing our own tail, which has caused us to issue consecutive posts with headlines in 180° opposition. The NFL responds to our comments always (and kindly) with a no comment. The NFL Referees Association defers our requests to their attorney, who has not answered a single one of our repeated requests.

So we are not playing the game. We will report news on the negotiations as warranted. But now, the regular season is upon us, and our duty is to report on, as the tagline at the top of this page states, “the NFL’s officials and the calls that they make.” The replacement officials will be the NFL’s officials for Week 1, and so we will be busy covering them.

You may monitor our Twitter feed (@footballzebras), and we will retweet the back-and-forth status of the collective bargaining from other sources. We can’t say this will be absolute; if we have something that is newsworthy, we won’t sit on it.

The latest state of negotiations. Before we sign off of labor-dispute coverage mode, here is where negotiations left off, based upon the NFL’s memo to the teams and the NFLRA response:

After the NFL sent a memo to the teams with information about the replacement referee plan for the regular season on Wednesday, there seemed to be new life in the monthlong-stalled negotiations.

Apparently, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell contacted referee Jeff Triplette, a member of the union’s negotiating committee, to jumpstart the talks. Without the full negotiating team present, the NFL thought it had set the parameters to end the negotiations and have a deal. According to the NFL memo, the NFLRA saw that movement as a means to find a middleground, but the league was in a position to hear “accept” or “decline” from the union.

Referee Scott Green heads the negotiating committee, so his absence from the talks involving Goodell are puzzling at least.

The only things mentioned in the NFL memo and the NFLRA press release were salary and retirement benefits. By that measure, two other key issues — the expansion from 17 crews to 20 crews and the league’s plan to slowly phase in full-time officials — have either not been discussed or are agreed upon.

With the talks having broke down on Saturday morning, there were no new negotiations planned.

Ben Austro is the editor and founder of Football Zebras and the author of So You Think You Know Football?: The Armchair Ref's Guide to the Official Rules (on sale now)

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