It has become abundantly clear to everyone watching professional football that the game is being compromised by the replacement referees ("With replacement officials, NFL has become a joke," Web, Tuesday). They simply do not have the skill to enforce the rules of the National Football League. The players realize they can break the rules and get away with it. As a result, more injuries will occur. Accordingly, player safety has emerged as a major concern related to the negotiating impasse between the NFL and the striking referees.
In stark contrast with the manner with which NFL commissioner Roger Goodell acted in adjudicating the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal, here the league has dragged its feet in negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with its referees. In a league with $9 billion in annual revenue, the difference between the NFL and referees association compensation packages sits at a relatively paltry $45 million. Pension reform and "standby" referees are points of contention but should not prove insurmountable hurdles to an agreement. The ultimate questions should be: What is a player's safety worth, and how much does the league value fan confidence in the outcome of its games?
The league's popularity is at an all-time high and the NFL would be foolish not to reach an agreement soon, before long-term damage to the sport is done and league revenues begin to decrease. After all, the players association and NFL were "far apart" on key negotiation points a couple weeks before the scheduled start of training camp last year, but they came to an agreement very quickly when the threat of losing regular season games became a reality. If fans express their unhappiness with decreased attendance and decreased TV viewer ratings and league-wide revenue suffers as a result, you can rest assured that this impasse will end just as quickly as that one did.
If the integrity of the game is truly important to the NFL, the owners and Roger Goodell will find a way to get their best referees back on the field.
CEO, Morgan Advisory Group LLC
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