The world is saved. NFL refs are back to work

Millions of NFL fans are whispering a heartfelt prayer this morning as news has come from the league office that the lockout of referees has ended.

ESPN:

After two days of marathon negotiations -- and mounting frustration among coaches, players and fans -- the NFL and the referees' union announced at midnight ET Thursday that a tentative agreement had been reached to end a lockout that began in June.

Commissioner Roger Goodell, who was at the bargaining table Tuesday and Wednesday, said the regular officials would work the Browns-Ravens game in Baltimore.

"Welcome back REFS," Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller tweeted shortly after the news broke.

The replacements worked the first three weeks of games, triggering a wave of outrage that threatened to disrupt the rest of the season. After a missed call cost the Green Bay Packers a win on a chaotic final play at Seattle on Monday night, the two sides really got serious.

"We are glad to be getting back on the field for this week's games," referees union president Scott Green said.

The tentative eight-year deal is the longest involving on-field officials in NFL history and was reached with the assistance of two federal mediators. It must be ratified by 51 percent of the union's 121 members, who plan to vote Friday and Saturday in Dallas.

The agreement hinged on working out salary, pension and retirement benefits for the officials, who are part-time employees of the league. Tentatively, it calls for their salaries to increase from an average of $149,000 a year in 2011 to $173,000 in 2013, rising to $205,000 by 2019.

Under the proposal, the current defined benefit pension plan will remain in place for current officials through the 2016 season or until the official earns 20 years of service. The defined benefit plan will then be frozen.

Retirement benefits will be provided for new hires and for all officials beginning in 2017, through a defined contribution arrangement. The annual league contribution made on behalf of each game official will begin with an average of more than $18,000 per official and increase to more than $23,000 per official in 2019.

In the end, it was the presence of league commissioner Roger Goodell that probably made the difference. Goodell had been hearing it from owners, coaches, players, and fans since the Monday night debacle in Seattle. The blown call at the end of the game that cost the Green Bay Packers the contest set off a firestorm across the length and breadth of America. Some players talked of striking until the real refs came back. Others said the players should "take a knee" on every play -- hiking the ball and having the quarterback go to the ground intentionally -- in order to protest the officiating situation.

Twitter exploded in anger and snark, with the blown call becoming the most tweeted sports topic in history. Even politicians weighed in as both Paul Ryan and President Obama urging an end to the lockout.

All of this pressure convinced Goodell that something must be done. Hence, the marathon negotiations and finally, a resolution.

I imagine that in a few weeks, some of us will be talking about the incompetence of the real refs. They blow plenty of calls themselves despite their experience. But they know the rules and that experience allows them to take control of games when it appears that players are about to riot.

At bottom, the NFL is an extraordinarily fast moving, violent game where officials, usually without the benefit of replay, must enforce a dizzying number of rules and regulations. Controlling mayhem is not an easy task but at least now, the games will go forward with officials who have a better idea of what they're doing.


Millions of NFL fans are whispering a heartfelt prayer this morning as news has come from the league office that the lockout of referees has ended.

ESPN:

After two days of marathon negotiations -- and mounting frustration among coaches, players and fans -- the NFL and the referees' union announced at midnight ET Thursday that a tentative agreement had been reached to end a lockout that began in June.

Commissioner Roger Goodell, who was at the bargaining table Tuesday and Wednesday, said the regular officials would work the Browns-Ravens game in Baltimore.

"Welcome back REFS," Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller tweeted shortly after the news broke.

The replacements worked the first three weeks of games, triggering a wave of outrage that threatened to disrupt the rest of the season. After a missed call cost the Green Bay Packers a win on a chaotic final play at Seattle on Monday night, the two sides really got serious.

"We are glad to be getting back on the field for this week's games," referees union president Scott Green said.

The tentative eight-year deal is the longest involving on-field officials in NFL history and was reached with the assistance of two federal mediators. It must be ratified by 51 percent of the union's 121 members, who plan to vote Friday and Saturday in Dallas.

The agreement hinged on working out salary, pension and retirement benefits for the officials, who are part-time employees of the league. Tentatively, it calls for their salaries to increase from an average of $149,000 a year in 2011 to $173,000 in 2013, rising to $205,000 by 2019.

Under the proposal, the current defined benefit pension plan will remain in place for current officials through the 2016 season or until the official earns 20 years of service. The defined benefit plan will then be frozen.

Retirement benefits will be provided for new hires and for all officials beginning in 2017, through a defined contribution arrangement. The annual league contribution made on behalf of each game official will begin with an average of more than $18,000 per official and increase to more than $23,000 per official in 2019.

In the end, it was the presence of league commissioner Roger Goodell that probably made the difference. Goodell had been hearing it from owners, coaches, players, and fans since the Monday night debacle in Seattle. The blown call at the end of the game that cost the Green Bay Packers the contest set off a firestorm across the length and breadth of America. Some players talked of striking until the real refs came back. Others said the players should "take a knee" on every play -- hiking the ball and having the quarterback go to the ground intentionally -- in order to protest the officiating situation.

Twitter exploded in anger and snark, with the blown call becoming the most tweeted sports topic in history. Even politicians weighed in as both Paul Ryan and President Obama urging an end to the lockout.

All of this pressure convinced Goodell that something must be done. Hence, the marathon negotiations and finally, a resolution.

I imagine that in a few weeks, some of us will be talking about the incompetence of the real refs. They blow plenty of calls themselves despite their experience. But they know the rules and that experience allows them to take control of games when it appears that players are about to riot.

At bottom, the NFL is an extraordinarily fast moving, violent game where officials, usually without the benefit of replay, must enforce a dizzying number of rules and regulations. Controlling mayhem is not an easy task but at least now, the games will go forward with officials who have a better idea of what they're doing.


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