Wednesday, August 15, 2012

An untraditional lockout.

The NFL is about to get its first female referee. This is quite the human interest story. But you know what you probably won't hear about? The why.

The NFL and the Referees Association (NFLRA) are in the midst of a labor dispute. The NFL is in desperate need of replacements and good press in order to put more pressure on the union. Is this just another dispute over wages and pensions? Yes, but not in the traditional way. The employer wants to give the union MORE hours and MORE money and the union doesn't want it.

NFL Referees have always been paid a mediocre salary for a part-time job - for professional sports that is. They would referee on weekends and then go back to their day jobs during the week. Most of them had very high-paying day jobs at that; as government officials, lawyers, and doctors. They were refereeing for the love of the game more than monetary necessity. People with lower salaries don't have the leisure time to spend on this type of thing.

The NFL wants to change that. They want their referees to become full-time employees and therefore quit their day jobs. They are offering a small increase in compensation and pensions to make up for this huge additional time commitment. The Referees Association would prefer to maintain the status quo. They argue they have to give to too much and get too little in return. The NFL argues that it is for the safety of the players to have people who are fully committed to doing this one thing all the time. I am not informed enough to know who is making a better argument.

But I do know that by bringing in a female referee for the first time, it's good Public Relations that can distract the media from the real issues at hand. Nonetheless, I wish her the best of luck. It is a step in the right direction for gender equality in professional sports.

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