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NFL Begins Referee Lockout

A little less than a year ago, NFL owners and players came to terms on a ten-year CBA that assured a relative amount of labor peace for a decade. There have been plenty of squabbles in recent months over a variety of issues, but nothing that would seem to lead towards any sort of labor stoppages.

While that owners and players have found some measure of peace, the NFL finds itself in another labor dispute this summer, this time with their referees. The CBA between the NFL and the NFL Referees Association expired after this past season, leaving the two sides to attempt to negotiate for a new deal. There have been deadlocks in negotiations, leading to the use of federal mediators, much like we saw last year.

Unfortunately, that appears to be going nowhere fast. Today, the NFL reportedly officially began their lockout of the current referees. Additionally, the league announced plans to begin hiring and training replacement referees. Head after the jump to check out their official statement on the issue.

Negotiations with the NFL Referees Association on a new collective bargaining agreement remain unresolved and the previous CBA has expired. Therefore, in order to ensure that there is no disruption to NFL games this season we will proceed immediately with the hiring and training of replacement officials.

Our goal is to maintain the highest quality of officiating for our teams, players, and fans, including proper enforcement of the playing rules and efficient management of our games.

Another negotiating session took place Sunday under the auspices of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. We appreciate the efforts of the FMCS and will continue to be available to the NFLRA and the FMCS to negotiate a fair resolution. We have great respect for our officials and in keeping with that view have made a proposal that includes substantial increases in compensation for all game officials.

According to Adam Schefter, the NFL is considering replacements that could include "elite" retired college officials, officials from small conferences and even Arena Football refs. Apparently they will NOT look to hire officials away from the BCS conferences. Somebody had a good tweet on that, talking about how the NFL doesn't want to piss off their free minor league.

The NFLPA just recently chimed in with some comments about referees issues:

The NFL Players Association is concerned about the NFL's decision to lock out professional referees and recruit scabs to serve as referees in NFL games for the 2012 season.

In 2011, the NFL tasked officials with increased responsibilities in protecting player health and safety, and its search for scabs undermines that important function.

Professional athletes require professional referees, and we believe in the NFL Referees Association's trained first responders. The NFLPA will continue to monitor the league's actions in this situation.

Where this gets a bit more curious is this: what happens if the NFL and refs don't have a deal done by the start of the preseason and/or regular season? Will the players threaten to not cross the refs' picket line? I need to go through the NFL-NFLPA CBA to see if it includes language protecting the players if they were to do so. Sometimes CBAs will include such language. I shot an email over to the NFLPA to get some clarification on that as well.

I suspect the league will get a deal done with the refs in time for the season. It could drag on into the season, but the league cannot afford credibility issues that come with replacement referees. It would seem to be inviting just a little bit of disaster bringing in refs that conceivably weren't considered good enough to get into the NFL. And considering they won't be going one level down, but rather multiple levels down, this would not end well for anybody.

Speaking of refs, Cam Inman took a fun angle with this whole referee business, looking at nine of the 49ers-related plays most worth replacing last season.