Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner who was widely blamed for the referee lockout, apologized to fans for the official work stoppage that escalated in its impact on the first three weeks of the season.
Two days after a missed call on the final play cost Green Bay a victory Monday night to Seattle, the NFL and the officials’ union announced a tentative eight-year agreement to end a lockout that began in June. The regular officials will return for Thursday night’s Browns-Ravens game.
Goodell insisted the two sides were already in “intense negotiations” the last two weeks and that the Monday night mess was not a major factor in completing a deal, but admitted, “It may have pushed the parties along,” he said.
“Obviously when you go through something like this, it’s painful for everybody. Most importantly, it’s painful for fans,” he said on a conference call Thursday, about 12 hours after the league reached a deal to bring back the regular officials. “We’re sorry to have to put fans through that. Sometimes you have to go through something like that in the short term for the right agreement for the long term.
But he dismissed assertions that the presence of replacement officials increased the chances an egregious mistake would occur. Goodell repeatedly reminded reporters that the regular officials have botched plenty of calls over the years.
The new agreement, he said, will improve officiating week in and week out, reducing similar mistakes in the future and making the strains of the last three weeks worthwhile.
“You’re always worried about the short-term impact on your brand and the long-term impact on the brand,” he said. “Obviously this has gotten a lot of attention and it hasn’t been positive. It’s something you have to fight through and get to the long term.”
Once the Referees Association ratifies it’s new eight-year labor agreement with the NFL on Saturday, the 121 officials will receive a nice bonus.
According to a source who spoke to ESPN, the NFL installed a $2.5 million ratification bonus in the deal. After the deal is voted on which is expected to happen in Dallas on Saturday, the NFL is expected to give the NFLRA a check for $2.5 million.
The ratification bonus is to be distributed to the 121 members of the Association as it sees fit. The $2.5 million will help ease the loss of four preseason and three regular-season game checks for the officials. In a season, members of crews are supposed to officiate 19 games.