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Jim Quirk retains post as head of referees’ union [updated]

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Update, 4/11: The union meetings have concluded, and Jim Quirk remains as the executive director. The matter of replacing Quirk did not come to a vote at the meetings that were “sparsely attended,” according to one union member. Football Zebras has not been in contact with all of the sources from the original story as yet, but it is apparent that they may have overstated their case. In any event, there is a constituency of an unknown size that has not been happy with the direction of the union; it is not clear if that was discussed or if there are any changes with the way the union does business in the future.

Update, 4/9: Pro Football Talk is reporting that the union released a statement, which was not received by Football Zebras. We stand behind the story as presented, which is based on information from current and former officials (who still retain alumni status in the union). We did not contact the union for comment for this story, as the last e-mail reply we have received from the union was September 2013, despite numerous requests in the past. We are apparently not the only outlet that has had this issue.

The statement, as reported by PFT:

“Jim Quirk continues to be the Executive Director of the NFLRA and such irresponsible reporting is both wrong and mean spirited,” NFL Referees Association spokesperson and legal counsel Mike Arnold said in a press release. “No one in the leadership of the NFLRA was contacted concerning this matter, and had any responsible journalist done so before reporting it, this erroneous report could have been avoided.”

Semantically, Quirk can still be the executive director, until a successor is named. The information presented in the report still retains accuracy. As for being mean-spirited, Football Zebras is reflecting the opinions presented by our sources; while we cannot speak for their motives, our reporting reflects the information we received and observable facts. We continue to respect and admire the contributions Quirk has made to the game and the officiating community.

The original post appears below.

Former NFL umpire and line judge Jim Quirk is leaving his post as the executive director of the National Football League Referees’ Association after three seasons, according to multiple officiating sources. The union is holding their annual meeting this month  and will elect a successor. Quirk apparently submitted his resignation in advance of the meeting.

The executive director position has been a permanent appointment by the union membership, but a proposed change to the bylaws would set a term length. Quirk also was to face a retention vote at the union meeting, according to one of the sources. In addition to the executive director, the union’s management consists of a board of directors — including four officer positions, headed by  referee Jeff Triplette as the union president — which are currently all active officials; the executive director has been  an NFL officiating alumnus, as it is a full-time position. The board positions are unpaid, but the executive director is paid $145,000 annually, according to nonprofit tax filings by the NFLRA.

Quirk, a 20-year NFL veteran, was known as a bulldog on the field, and, no doubt it was a reputation that secured his appointment in 2013 after the retirement of Tim Millis. Quirk’s appointment came the year after the officials were locked out by the NFL during collective bargaining. The replay officials’ contract was negotiated the next season under Quirk, but the replay officials worked under the parameters of the expired contract until a deal was reached.

In addition, Quirk has recently scuttled attempts by the NFL to make a limited number of officials full-time hires. Because the plan involves moving those officials to league-office positions, the full-time officials would not be covered by the collective bargaining agreement. Quirk argued that it removes critical protections for the officials, since the union could not represent those officials in contract negotiations or in disciplinary matters. Commissioner Roger Goodell publicly laid the blame for the failed proposal at the feet of the union.

Despite the brassy  presence he’s known for, officiating sources are saying that Quirk does not have the hard edge they expected from him. The consensus is that Quirk has taken a more measured approach in his position because his son, Jim Quirk Jr., is currently a back judge in the NFL. “And that’s a clear conflict of interest, because he is putting one official before all of the rest,” said one source.

The senior Quirk also took a curious stance against the crew that worked the Panthers-Giants game this season, widely publicized for the post-play skirmishes by Odell Beckham Jr., Josh Norman, and Cortland Finnegan. None of the combatants were ejected by Terry McAulay’s crew, and Quirk made a rare public comment to criticize the crew in an interview with USA Today:

I don’t want to second-guess the guys that worked the game, but I thought they should have been a lot more judicious in their attempts to get this thing under control. I don’t know why they did what they did, but I wish it had been handled different.

McAulay quit the NFLRA (although he must  still pay dues) because of Quirk’s statement, an indication of further eroding support for the executive director.

The sources told us they  were not aware of any  potential candidates for the vacancy.

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