Jim Trotter of Sports Illustrated recently conducted an interview with DeMaurice Smith, Executive Director of the NFL Players Association.
During the interview Smith did not rule out the possibility that the NFL’s players may strike citing safety concerns due to the low level of game management that the “replacement” officials have exhibited since being installed by the NFL during the NFLRA’s on-going work stoppage.
"In America it is the employer’s obligation to provide as safe a working environment as possible. We believe that if the National Football League fails in that obligation we reserve the right to seek any relief that we believe is appropriate. The NFL has chosen to prevent the very officials that they have trained, championed and cultivated for decades to be on the field to protect players and — by their own admission — further our goal of enhanced safety. That is absurd on its face."
It is Smith’s contention that the lack of quality refereeing has placed the players in harms way because the current referees lack the experience as a first responder to safety on the field.
Additionally Smith voiced concerns over the lack of objectivity to enforce the rules without sufficient training and experience.
"The players on the field are members of a team where every one of our owners want to win. The owners have invested in the players, and each and every owner loves what keeps the National Football League unique among sports. And it’s two things, on any given Sunday a team could win; and every game matters. So my question to the owners is, because those two things are true, why would they ever want to leave the game in critical moments in the hands of referees that they ordinarily would never hire? I mean, If these referees were so credible, how come they hadn’t hired them before the lockout?"
It appears that the NFL may have no choice but to meet the demands of the permanent officials soon, or risk mutiny from the NFL players themselves.
Last year the players were dangerously close to sitting out the 2011 season thanks to stalled negotiations with the NFL concerning the new collective bargaining agreement, but in the twelfth hour a deal was finally struck and the lockout was adverted.
Likely a similar scenario will play out as both the NFL and NFLRA wait to the very last minute to raise the white flag and find some middle ground in an effort to get the “good guys” back on the field.