NFL rescinds offer to refs

In what has been a game of ongoing negotiations since last March, the NFL withdrew a revised offer to its locked-out referees after they voted unanimously last Friday to reject what the league considered a generous offer.<br><br> Already making more per game than their baseball and basketball counterparts, the NFL referees have now been offered a contract that they turned down in mid-June. <br><br> The league it seems, is ready to play hard ball.

The NFL sees 16 regular season games a year, yet its referees want to be paid on par with what their NBA and MLB colleagues make. The NFL referees already make more per game but continue to believe that their stand-fast negotiations will somehow pay off. Last Friday however, the referees' union received a startling blow.

First, the union voted unanimously to reject another revised offer by the NFL that would give them a 60 percent raise in the first year of their contract and double their salaries by 2003. The league countered by withdrawing the offer and giving them an option to accept a lesser deal proposed last June.

As a result, replacement officials worked last weekend. They have been guaranteed four games at $2,000 per week, which, including the final exhibition game, would take them through the third week of the season.

The NFL referees are paid more per game in their 16-game season, than the NBA (80) or MLB (162), yet they still want more.

We saw what happened when the major league umpires' association thought they were irreplaceable and made demands that the league would not accept - they were, well, replaced.

There are a lot of good referees out there who would love the opportunity to make, as Dire Straits said, 'Money for Nothin'. The league shouldn't have to cater to unrealistic demands. Their offer to pay a first-year referee nearly $50,000 (when salaries double by 2003) should be more than enough.

If the referees' union isn't willing to be more flexible in negotiations and continues to vote against new and improved proposals by the league, then the NFL should say goodbye to the old-school establishment and rebuild, just like every team does on occasion.

For now anyway, the league seems content with replacements.

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