Years ago the Coca-Cola Company changed their soft drink formula and started marketing the “new Coke.” The sweeter formula, their research showed, was just the thing the American people wanted. However, the change practically started a revolt. Across the country protest groups formed in an effort to change the company’s decision. Petition signing campaigns were instigated in most cities. It was urged that those that were dissatisfied call the company to protest their change. Hundreds of thousands of telephone calls were made. After all the furor was over, the Coca-Cola Company caved in and brought back the old Coke.
By allowing the NFL Referee Lockout and hiring replacement referees, the NFL failed to realize how vitally important the professional referees are to the integrity of the game, player safety, and fan enjoyment. In essence, they changed the winning formula of the NFL.
Obviously they need to change the formula, bring back the real referees and end the lockout.
But what exactly is the lockout about anyway and why did the NFL go in the direction they did?
Raise your hand if any of the following sounds familiar:
- Unions and their workers want to keep their pensions.
- Local Governments and Corporations want to do away with costly guaranteed pension plans.
- People don’t think they are adequately compensated for their work and amount of time required to do their jobs.
- Corporations and Governments want to move to a pay per performance review scale.
- Folks worry about job security.
- The Rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
Well, that is exactly what the NFL Referee Lockout is all about.
Pension vs. no Pension.
Shift from a pension plan – yes part time professional referees get a full pension – . The NFL wants to move away from this costly guarantee to a more industry standard 401K format and put the burden of maintaining it on the employee.
Current Salary vs. Peers and wanting more money.
The NFL actually offered up an extra 20% on average salary increase. Of course they attached some strings to this condition. The Union does not think this is fare based on historical events.
Job security vs. performance reviews.
The NFL wants more officiating crews. This means expanded talent pool, ability to weed out the poorer performing ones and have more alternates waiting on the sidelines should they be needed. In a pay per play environment, this is good for the NFL, bad for the refs.
Full time vs. Part time.
The league wants to hire seven full time referees (one for each position) as recruiters, trainers and leaders. The league argues that the sacrifices each current referee makes regarding years of study and training just to be eligible to work the games equates to more of a full time job and therefore a full time compensation plan. The Union is not directly opposed to the seven full time employees but believes the compensation being offered up by the NFL is not adequate.
This lockout is between the haves and the have-nots and is not all that different than what we all are witnessing and experiencing in American politics, the economy and society today. What makes this lockout and the use of replacement referees even more newsworthy is this skirmish is being played out on national television with millions of people watching.
And when millions of people watch, a bunch of money is being made.
The NFL has lucrative TV contracts, ticket sales, merchandising plans and even a pretty good PR / Marketing department. All this adds up to a $9 Billion dollar industry that is growing stronger and bigger year after year.
The players union argued that even though hundreds of millions of public money and personal (owners) capital had been invested into the NFL to help make it what it is today, that they played an equally important role in the NFL’s success. So they negotiated a new collective bargaining agreement last year – yes there was a lockout for that too – and as a result; the rich keep getting richer and the NFL juggernaut keeps making money and we get professional football back.
Or, so we all thought.
Along came the NFL Officials Union and their attempt to negotiate a new deal.
The big difference here is that officials are not multi-millionaire athletes. They are not full time employees and even though on principle, their demands were significant to them, in reality they were not significant to the NFL.
This is the NFL’s version of the 1% vs. the 99% as well as the upcoming election and the Rich vs. the Middle Class.
Don’t believe me?
Consider this. The total yearly difference – cost – to the NFL was about $4.5 million.
I don’t know about you, but when I divide 4 million by 9 billion I come up with – well – practically nothing.
In other words the true financial impact to the NFL was nothing. So from their point of view, why would they be compelled to meet with the union and hammer out a new deal when they can get replacement refs to do the same job and keep making more money?
What has become painfully clear to everyone over the past 3 weeks is that the officials are a vital ingredient to the success of the NFL.
The NFL changed their formula and the replacement referees have failed the taste test!
Inspirational reading for this post was contributed by: