Referees approved the contract by a 112-5 vote, officially ending a lockout that led to a rising chorus of complaints from players, coaches, fans and politicians. The next stop for the refs who gathered in Irving, Texas, was the airport, where most were to hop on planes taking them straight to their Sunday game sites.
It’s all history now,” head linesman Tom Stabile said. “For us, it was a benefit. It may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
The deal came quickly after three weeks of escalating difficulties for league-hired replacement refs, culminating in a disputed touchdown call that decided Monday night’s Packers-Seahawks game. With a tentative deal in place, league referees returned to cheers at Thursday night’s game between Cleveland and Baltimore.
The tentative contract called for refs’ salaries to increase from an average of $149,000 a year in 2011 to $173,000 in 2013, rising to $205,000 by 2019. The current defined benefit pension plan will remain in place for current officials through the 2016 season or until the official earns 20 years’ service.
The defined benefit plan will then be frozen. Retirement benefits will be provided for new hires, and for all officials beginning in 2017, through a defined contribution arrangement.
The NFL will pay its 112 replacement officials for this weekend even though they are no longer working games.
The league said Friday it will pay $3,500 to referees and $3,000 to other officials, NFL.com reported. Replacements worked the first three weeks of the season, causing frustration from players and fans. Perhaps sparked by the outcry from the Packers-Seahawks game, the NFL and the officials’ union announced at midnight Thursday that a tentative eight-year agreement had been reached to end the lockout that began in June.
In a telephone poll conducted by ESPN and Global Strategy before the lockout ended, fans said the replacement officials had a negative impact on the NFL’s reputation and would have had an effect on how much football they watched.