Rule Or Ruin In The NFL

I have a lot of good friends, the owners of the Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets – both owners are friends of mine.”

—Mitt Romney

hat happened this weekend in the NFL, particularly what happened last night, is what the gazillionaire owners in the NFL deserve.

Those wealthy but stupid owners have been trying to bust the referees’ union and in the process they are busting the integrity of their lucrative game.

The New England Patriots-Baltimore Ravens contest on Sunday—which ended with Patriot coach Bill Belichick trying to grab the arm of a fleeing scab ref— was stained by bad and weird calls, including a refusal to even review the game-ending field goal, which was ruled good but may not have been.

Monday night’s game ended on a blown call in the end zone, with confused referees ruling both a touchdown and an interception. At least this time the scab refs took the time—a bleeping ten minutes—to review the play and they still got the damn thing wrong. The Seattle Seahawks were awarded a victory they didn’t deserve over the Green Bay Packers.

NFL players around the league have expressed outrage, finally, over what happened, but the truth is that they turned their backs on the referees too. They could have supported the referees’ union by refusing to play until the NFL settled its dispute with the union. That would have settled matters fairly quickly, and in the referees’ favor.

As for that dispute, most of it comes down to bullying owners who locked out the referees because those fabulously wealthy owners in a fabulously wealthy game want to strip the referees of their defined pensions and replace them with owner-friendly 401 (k) plans, a trend that has hurt working folks all over the country.

As HuffPo reported:

In facing a pension freeze, the NFL refs have plenty of company. Corporations across the country have been trying to switch their employees from traditional defined benefit pension plans to cheaper, less reliable defined contribution plans. Just one example is Con-Ed, which recently locked out workers as it tried to phase out employees’ traditional pensions and move them to 401(k)s.

A lockout, it should be noted, is different from a strike. The workers do not elect to stop working — they are forced to do so by management, putting them on the defensive. (Writing at The Nation, Dave Zirin and Mike Elk compared locking out 119 referees to “using an Uzi on a field mouse.”) The prevalence of lockouts during labor disputes has soared in the weak economy.

I know, I know. For those of us who have been a part of a union, it isn’t that hard to believe that those wonderful job creators would take advantage of bad times to squash their workers, but it has been happening, and what the NFL is doing to those 119 refs—think about that: the NFL versus 119 guys with whistles—is a perfect example of how nasty these folks can be.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell doesn’t pretend that the NFL can’t afford to pay for the referees’ pensions. The league is drowning in money—the average NFL team is worth $1.1 billion, with the Dallas Cowboys worth $2.1 billion—and it is clear that owners just want to break the union.

Goodell said this:

From the owners’ standpoint, right now they’re funding a pension program that is a defined benefit program. About ten percent of the country has that. Yours truly doesn’t have that. It’s something that doesn’t really exist anymore and that I think is going away steadily.

What we agreed to do and offer as ownership is that they would have a defined contribution plan, in the form of 401(k), so they’ll still have a pension plan but the risk, like [for] most of us, would be on individuals.

Yeah, put the risk on the workers, those who actually perform the work, and let the owners off the hook because, well, they are the owners! And the owners rule. That is the NFL way, the Romney way, and the Republican way.

In the mean time, the game, the workers, the country, suffers.

[Joshua Trujillo, AP photo]


  1. Kabe

     /  September 25, 2012

    I heard that Gov Walker tweeted about wanting the regular officials back and that Paul Ryan chimed in as well. That is true Karma. I bet they would still want replacement teachers though.



  2. writer89

     /  September 25, 2012

    Nailed it, as usual. Let’s see if the players will find a way (despite their contract’s prohibition against striking in support of the refs) to make the owners man up on this one. And woe to the players who don’t support the refs. When the lockout is over, I wouldn’t want to be one of those players looking for a call on a borderline play! They’ll remember.


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