NFL players union: Replacement refs to jeopardize safety

Fitzgerald Cecilio – 4E Sports Reporter

New York, NY, United States (4E Sports) – The National Football League Players Association believes that the league has jeopardized the safety of its players by putting replacement officials on the field for the start of regular season.

“I’ve said before that on a scale of 1 to 10, I think this is a 12. With the regular season approaching, my level of concern (about player safety) is only increasing,” NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith told the New York Times.

The NFL has already informed 32 teams that replacement officials will blow the whistle during Week 1 of the regular season while it is negotiating with the officials’ union for a new collective bargaining agreement.

In 2001, the NFL used replacements for the first week of the regular season before a contract was finalized.

Smith said an employer has an obligation to provide a safe working environment as possible for workers, and if the NFL fails to do so, the union will seek appropriate relief available.

“The NFL has chosen to prevent the very officials that they have trained, championed and cultivated for decades to be on the field to protect players and — by their own admission – further our goal of enhanced safety. That is absurd on its face,” Smith added.

Smith said the hiring of replacement referees with little or no experience at all to replace regular referees with nearly 1,500 years of NFL experience in calling games only shows that players’ safety has taken a backseat.

“The only conclusion that I have is that the league cares more about money than it does about the experience of the referees as a vehicle to increase player safety,” he added.

Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe echoed Smith’s sentiment, saying hiring replacement officials is like putting a high school football player against high-caliber NFL players.

“The speed’s totally different. Those guys are trying hard, but they’re just not used to the speed of the game and they’re missing a lot of stuff,” Kluwe said.

However, some team owners like Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys haven’t noticed the difference between the regular and replacement referees.

“Why would the owners ever want to leave the game in critical moments in the hands of referees that they ordinarily would never hire? I mean, If these referees were so credible, how come they hadn’t hired them before the lockout?” Jones said.

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