Replacements Ready: Talks Between NFL and Refs Collapse
New York, NY
Replacement referees are now guaranteed to call the shots in Week 1 of the NFL regular season after negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement between the league and regular game referees broke down.
"We met with the NFL and discussed various potential solutions to reach a new collective bargaining agreement. Unfortunately we were unable to reach any agreement," the NFL Referees Association said in a statement through spokesman Michael Arnold.
"We are disappointed because it means that our members will not be back on the field for Week 1 of the regular season due to the NFL's continuing lockout," Arnold added.
Despite the breakdown in talks, Arnold said regular referees are still willing to negotiate with the league in order to reach a fair labor agreement.
However, a new agreement hangs in the balance as no additional meetings are scheduled between the parties at this time.
In 2001, the NFL used replacements for the first week of the regular season before a contract was finalized.
In a statement, the NFL reaffirmed its earlier position to use replacement officials during the opening week of the regular season while negotiating with regular referees.
"No further talks were scheduled. We are proceeding with the replacement officials," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in a statement.
The NFL has already informed 32 teams that replacement officials will blow the whistle during Week 1 of the regular season.
"We will have replacement crews on the field when the regular season begins. The replacements have undergone extensive training and evaluation, and have shown steady improvement during the preseason," NFL vice president of football operations Ray Anderson said in a memo to all 32 teams.
The players union criticized the move, saying league has jeopardized the safety of its players by putting replacement officials on the field for the start of regular season.
"I've said before that on a scale of 1 to 10, I think this is a 12. With the regular season approaching, my level of concern (about player safety) is only increasing," NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said.
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