|Bruce Hermansen was the replacement ref in charge when the Seahawks were awarded an extra down in Week 1. (US Presswire)|
While fans and reporters have been extra-vigilant about reporting how badly the replacement officials have fared, the NFLPA is trying to help the regular referees in their public relations battle with the league.
"The NFL Players Association Executive Committee is calling on you to end the lockout of our referees,” the union wrote in a letter released Sunday morning. “We believe there is substantial evidence that you have failed in your obligation to provide as safe a working environment as possible.”
Mostly the NFLPA says it's concerned about player safety and that the use of replacement refs who don't have experience officiating the game at this level has “led to a deterioration of order, safety and integrity.”
From a public relations view, the NFL wasn't helped by the revelation last week that one official slated to work the Saints-Panthers game had posted multiple pictures of himself in Saints gear on his Facebook page. And it hasn't been helped by the numerous mistakes that TV announcers and players gleefully have pointed out during and after games.
So far, it doesn't appear as if the replacements' struggles have compelled the NFL and the regular officials to make any progress toward a new deal. Thus, the NFLPA is now making its voice heard.
More from the letter, which was signed by Domonique Foxworth, Charlie Batch, Cornelius Bennett, Drew Brees, Brian Dawkins, Scott Fujita, Matt Hasselbeck, Brandon Moore, Jeff Saturday, Mickey Washington, Brian Waters and Ben Watson:
As we predicted and explained to you weeks ago, the removal of the veteran officials from regular season games left a group of your replacements who have proved to be incapable of keeping pace with the speed of the game. Coaches and players have complained of numerous errors and failures including: erratic and missed calls on egregious holds and hits, increased skirmishes between players and confusion about game rules. Many replacements have lost control of games due to inexperience and unfamiliarity with players and rules.
The headlines are embarrassing: a scab working a game despite having been on the payroll of one of the teams, another who was assigned to referee a team he publicly supported on Facebook, and one who is a professional poker player when you propose even more stringent player rules on gambling.
It is lost on us as to how you allow a commissioner to cavalierly issue suspensions and fines in the name of player health and safety yet permit the wholesale removal of the officials that you trained and entrusted to maintain that very health and safety. It has been reported that the two sides are apart by approximately $60,000 per team. We note that your commissioner has fined an individual player as much in the name of “safety.” Your actions are looking more and more like simple greed. As players, we see this game as more than the “product” you reference at times. You cannot simply switch to a group of cheaper officials and fulfill your legal, moral, and duty obligations to us and our fans. You need to end the lockout and bring back the officials immediately.
We are all men who love and respect this game and believe that it represents something beyond just money. For our teammates, our coaches and our fans who deserve better, vote to end this lockout now.
Consider CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco unimpressed with the letter.
@mikegarafolo Union backing a union. Yet one union's player play on. Hmm.— Pete Prisco (@PriscoCBS) September 23, 2012