This time last year, the NFL and the NFL Players Association were locked in an ugly battle over a new collective bargaining agreement. The NFL Owners would lockout the players for nearly 5 months, finally coming to terms on a new 10-year agreement that has brought peace to the league (if you ignore the multitude of arbitration and lawsuits going on between the two sides right now).
But, apparently not everything is perfect for the league, who is suddenly struggling to come to a new CBA with the NFL Referees Association. The previous deal between the two sides had been a six year deal signed in 2006, ending at the conclusion of last season. Now, despite having begun negotiations in October, the league is poised to lockout the referees, turning to replacement refs to ensure the 2012 season begins on time.
"Negotiations with the NFL Referees Association on a new collective bargaining agreement remain unresolved and the previous CBA has expired," an NFL press release stated yesterday. "Therefore, in order to ensure that there is no disruption to NFL games this season we will proceed immediately with the hiring and training of replacement officials."
According to the NFL's statement, their "goal is to maintain the highest quality of officiating for our teams, players, and fans, including proper enforcement of the playing rules and efficient management of our games."
However, the NFL Players Association doesn't believe the NFL's sincere in its dealings with the Referees Association. In a statement released last night, the NFLPA weighed in on the situation:
"The NFL Players Association is concerned about the NFL's decision to lock out professional referees and recruit scabs to serve as referees in NFL games for the 2012 season.
"In 2011, the NFL tasked officials with increased responsibilities in protecting player health and safety, and its search for scabs undermines that important function.
"Professional athletes require professional referees, and we believe in the NFL Referees Association's trained first responders. The NFLPA will continue to monitor the league's actions in this situation."
However, the NFL squarely put the ball in the NFLRA's court, stating, "Another negotiating session took place Sunday under the auspices of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. We appreciate the efforts of the FMCS and will continue to be available to the NFLRA and the FMCS to negotiate a fair resolution. We have great respect for our officials and in keeping with that view have made a proposal that includes substantial increases in compensation for all game officials."
As the NFL season gets closer, one of the major storylines of the summer will be the replacement ref's training versus the NFLRA's negotiations with a league looking to replace them.