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NFL owners are out of bounds in referee lockout

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Posted on September 6, 2012 |
By Andy Kirkaldy



Y’know, it’s already harder and harder to get excited about each new NFL season as more information steadily comes out about how inherently dangerous the sport, notably at the professional level, is to the human brain.

And now we have the owner-imposed referee lockout to dampen enthusiasm even further.

It’s really difficult to root for a sport that is owned and operated by some of the meanest people who walk the face of the earth.

Let’s look at the lockout economics. It’s pretty well agreed the NFL creates a lot of revenue. One source online pegged it as “upwards of $8 billion” a year, another at $9 billion.

Sources disagree on exactly how much NFL referees make. One said between $42,300 and $121,000 per season, another said they start at $78,000. Let’s go with the high end, Dave Zirin and Mike Elk of cbsnews.com, who peg it at $8,000 per week. Including preseason, that’s 20 weeks, or $160,000.

Reportedly they get another $20,000 in pension benefits, although that is one of the issues on the table. And it’s a big one, because referees are not fulltime NFL employees and some of them signed onto a “defined benefit” plan with the league and dropped their pensions from their other jobs. Now the owners have locked the referees out and said they can’t have that anymore, but the owners allow they would be happy convert those pensions into less secure 401k’s.

Keep in mind also the NFL’s per-team player salary cap in 2012 is $120.6 million. The absolute minimum wage for an NFL player, one with no experience and no guaranteed draft pick money, is $355,000.

Zirin and Elk also say there are 119 referees. That number times $200,000, assuming there are other costs of employment for the league after pensions, comes to about $24 million.

Assuming the NFL does gross $9 billion a year, referees might now be earning about a quarter of 1 percent of the NFL pie.

According to Ron Borges of the Boston Herald, if the referees’ union were to capitulate to every demand that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell now has on the table, it would save every NFL team the sum of — wait for it — $62,500 per year.

I’m guessing that $62,500 per year is not going to make or break Dan Snyder, Jerry Jones or Bob Kraft, even if it would go a long way toward replacing my 12-year-old minivan, our shabby kitchen cabinets, and the carpeting that our cats have historically confused with litter boxes.

And keep in mind also the refs are the guys in charge of making the NFL product flow smoothly every week and, at least indirectly, of taking care of player safety.

So why are the owners so shameless they have locked the refs out over what for them is a pittance, while replacing them with officials that include at least one Lingerie Football League castoff? (I’m not making that up.)

Well, I’m sure the owners all give plenty of cash to union-busting SuperPACs and right-wing candidates, and they probably feel what good is having all that money and power if they can’t crush a few little people every now and then. Which candidate was it that said he liked to fire people?

So I’ll follow the Patriots for a while longer, probably as long as the Brady era lasts, anyway. It’s tough to stop after 39 years.

But it’s not, and won’t be, that hard. 

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