Rejoice: The NFL’s Referee Lockout Is Over
It took the league being completely embarrassed on a marquee stage for it to finally happen, but it happened: the NFL's much-maligned referee lockout is over. The referees union announced at midnight that the two sides reached a tentative eight-year deal, the longest ever for on-field officials, and the regular refs will be back for tonight's Ravens-Browns game. Some terms of the deal are as follows:
Tentatively, [the deal] calls for [referees'] salaries to increase from an average of $149,000 a year in 2011 to $173,000 in 2013, rising to $205,000 by 2019.
Under the proposal, the current defined benefit pension plan will remain in place for current officials through the 2016 season or until the official earns 20 years of service. The defined benefit plan will then be frozen.
Retirement benefits will be provided for new hires and for all officials beginning in 2017, through a defined contribution arrangement. The annual league contribution made on behalf of each game official will begin with an average of more than $18,000 per official and increase to more than $23,000 per official in 2019.
I'm not what you'd call an expert on labor disputes (i.e. "they happen because money" is pretty much the extent of my expertise), but to my eyes, the refs got a pretty solid deal out of all this. The key to actually getting a deal done, though, was how good a deal the NFL was getting. And fortunately for, well, basically everyone but the league and the owners who were trying to save a few bucks, after Monday Night's debacle, "anything that gets the real refs back on the field" was a good deal for the NFL.
Because no matter how much the NFL tried to make it look like it was standing by the replacements, a deal getting done so soon after the Seattle Screwjob proves the league was desperate to make amends. And the statement the NFL issued supporting the refs on that deciding Packers-Seahawks call now looks like nothing more than posturing to make everyone think they weren't so desperate to make a deal. They were. They did. And people will never be as happy to see a group of guys in zebra-stripe outfits as they will tonight.
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