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NFL, Referees Come to an Agreement: Expert Joseph M. Pastore Weighs In

September 27th, 2012 at 10:48 AM
By Donald Lappe

The NFL has come to an agreement with its referees, ending the NFLRA Lockout and returning the officials to the field for this weekend's games. The replacement officials did the best they could, but without the same level of training most weren't ready to officiate the NFL game and it showed. The Monday Night Football debacle ensued, and then President Barack Obama weighed in. Now, all things are settled and the referees are back. Dr. Joseph M. Pastore, Jr., of Pace University helped us answer some of the lingering questions about the situation.

'Jets-Dolphin game, Nov 2009 - 071' photo (c) 2009, Ed Yourdon - license:

Dr. Joseph M. Pastore, Jr., is Professor Emeritus (in Residence), Lubin School of Business, Pace University. He holds a bachelor's degree from St. Bonaventure University (1963), an M.B.A. from Pace University (1966), and a Ph.D. from Saint Louis University (1969). Dr. Pastore mediated a $300 Million settlement while Monitors and Special Master overseeing the desegregation of Yonkers Public Schools.

When Dr. Pastore saw that President Barack Obama chimed in on the NFL and its dispute with the referees, he knew the situation would end soon:

“I believe the NFL’s referee dispute will be resolved in a matter of days, now that the President of the United States has weighed in on the issue. Once it gets to the level of the President, it’s over. Even if he is to claim he has no standing — he has no legal standing, but he does have moral standing — I think the issue will be history very soon."

Dr. Pastore was spot-on with those comments, as the lockout ended today. Still, we wanted to know more. Luckily for us, Dr. Pastore was kind enough to answer our lingering question: Why did this have to go this far?

Jets 101: Did this dispute need to go this far? Are you able to comment on whether either side could have pushed the envelope sooner?

Dr. Pastore: "It didn't need to go so far, especially since the issues are relatively minor (e.g., setting up a 401K on a "grandfathered basis", which is the likely outcome of that issue is a customary practice for entities seeking to shift away from a "defined benefits plan" to a 401K).  

But, consider the nature of the "bet" the NFL owners were taking. First, the owners have saved over $3M by turning to replacement refs. And, second, what if the replacement refs turned out to be just as effective? How would that affect the teams' bargaining position? In fact, are we seeing greater attention paid to controversial calls now because we are watching for and reporting on ref miscues because they are replacement refs? Have we not had controversial calls in the past? Of course, the Seahawks and Packers controversy in the midst of all of this puts pressure on the NFL, but it also spawns fan interest and even non-fan interest. And, it doesn't hurt that the NFL even gets to share a bit of the Presidential Election press.

So, no, if one looks solely at the issues under contention, it didn't need to go so far. But, up to the point where such arguments as player safety and game integrity emerge as credible concerns, there is little risk to the NFL to not settle the dispute. Disputes with refs garner little support for the refs until the game is adversely affected. Refs are not heroes until proven so. Ever hear fan reaction to the refs arrival on a baseball diamond? It is only when a player like Roberto Alomar spit in an umpire's face that the fans turn away from players as heroes and cast refs in that role.

So, the refs had little bargaining power as long as the game was not adversely affected. And, the NFL had little incentive to settle quickly as long as the game and their liability were not adversely affected. I can't wait for the story to emerge in the future, after the settlement, when there is a major miscue by the regular refs. I am sure the nation will be watching and fans watching and Presidents opining is exactly what the NFL hopes for."

A big thank you to Dr. Joseph M. Pastore of Pace University for taking the time to discuss this issue with us!


Tags: Barack Obama, Football, Lockout, New York, New York Jets, NFL, Officials, referees, replacement officials

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