The National Football League and the National Football League Referees Association are locked in an impasse attempting to negotiate a new contract for the on-field officials. The NFLRA has been an organized union since 1993. The contract under which both were operating expired at the close of the 2011 season, and negotiations to establish a new one have been pugnacious in the strongest sense of the word.
At this writing both sides have walked away from the table, with each blaming the other for this predicament. Nothing positive is happening.
The league has said they will hire “replacement” officials and has already begun interviewing a couple of hundred prospective candidates. With 16 games each week the league needs to hire 112 replacement officials. These will be mainly former officials (not affiliated with the NFL) or current high school, community college and small-college officials. Division 1 (major college) officials have declined consideration, feeling they would jeopardize their current standings in the college system.
Some major points need to be considered: First, the integrity of the NFL game lies squarely on the shoulders of competent game officials. It has been my experience that the proper training of NFL officials takes three to five years, following successful high-level college careers. NFL athletes are the best in the world, with only 1,700 able to compete each week; only the demonstrably best officials should be matched with their level of play. Even then it takes qualified officials several years to gain the trust and respect of the NFL players and coaches. While fans don’t go to NFL games to see officials, replacement officials will become an unwanted focus during the 2012 season.
Further, in negotiations the best, and perhaps the only, way to resolve differences is meeting and working through all details of the contract. Compromise, the art of give and take, is axiomatic to any successful negotiation. Agreements are rare without it. When opposing sides take the bully approach, respect and trust deteriorate and negotiations often fail.
Compromise, not bullying, holds true in all human relations, including successful marriages and child development.
Will you be willing to give and take to make your negotiation successful?