ESPN.com columnist Ashley Fox writes:
The NFL is a $9 billion industry and growing. It can't have unqualified, inexperienced officials making calls that affect the outcomes of games. It can't have men, and a woman, who have never worked an NFL game step in and help legislate player safety, supposedly one of the league's most important initiatives. It is lunacy. It will affect the integrity of the game. It already has.But the NFL is saying it's prepared, even expecting, to go into the regular season with scab referees.
The pay scales for NFL officials are higher than when nursing home aides or factory workers are locked out, of course. But some of the issues are strikingly similar: At the top of that list, referees are one more group of workers whose bosses want to end their defined benefit pension and replace it with a 401(k). Remember that this is a league that locked out its players last year. Football is enormously profitable, but the team owners are looking at every group of workers, trying to force major concessions. The officials, who are part-time workers, have found themselves working more and more to keep up with the game. Now the NFL wants some of them to be full time, and to add more part-time refs—but the league's compensation offers aren't keeping up with the officials it wants to add.
It's time for the NFL to end this lockout. The league and its billionaire owners can afford to pay for experienced officials. Players deserve to have their safety on the field protected by those same experienced officials. And everyone who cares about football deserves games with a minimum of blown calls.