In the ongoing lockout of NFL referees, we have officially now made the journey from tragedy to farce. The tragedy is a collection of team owners sacrificing the very integrity of their sport and risking the very health of its players over a pittance. The farce was last night’s game where the Green Bay Packers lost to the Seattle Seahawks in a game decided by a blown call that, as ESPN commentator Herm Edwards put it, “Four drunk guys in a bar could have gotten right.”
The tragedy is that there is no settlement, fans are outraged and a preventable brutal injury is just lurking around the corner because the league’s “first responders” are rank, scab incompetents.
The farce is that the NFL owners are so isolated that they can’t see that everyone wants the union refs back, even the Governor whose political fortunes are underwritten by right-wing, anti-labor billionaires: Wisconsin’s Scott Walker. Yes, that Scott Walker. The same governor who waged war on union teachers and firefighters without care for the social costs, wants his union refs back. Late last night, the Green Bay Packers fan tweeted, “After catching a few hours of sleep, the #Packers game is still just as painful. #Returntherealrefs.” The gall of Scott Walker possesses the power of a tsunami.
At least we know where the governor’s priorities are. Unskilled, underpaid, poorly performing teachers and firefighters don’t trouble him. Poorly officiated NFL games do. Maybe he’ll call the Wisconsin National Guard on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell as that’s his preferred negotiating tactic.
The only way we’re going to break this cycle of tragedy and farce is the self-activity of players themselves.
It’s their health, their safety and the integrity of their game on the line. If fans boycotted, the money toward owners would still flow in the form of television money and luxury boxes. The only thing that dams the mighty $9 billion revenue stream of the National Football League is if the players refuse to play. The current NFL is in a state of crisis because of management. But a solution can be posed by labor.
For more on the NFL referee lockout, read Dave Zirin's previous post.