NFL Reportedly Suspends Full-Time Referee Program Amid Labor Negotiations

Megan ArmstrongCorrespondent IIIJuly 12, 2019

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - FEBRUARY 03: Referee John Parry #132 makes a call in the second half between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams during Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on February 03, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The future of the NFL's full-time referee program is under review.  

According to ESPN's Kevin Seifert, the league has suspended the program amid labor negotiations with the NFL Referees Association. 

"Barring a turn in negotiations, the decision means the NFL will revert to its previous structure of using a full roster of officials whose employment status is part-time," Seifert wrote.

The NFL and NFLRA came to terms on an eight-year collective bargaining agreement in Sept. 2012 to end a lockout initiated by officials that June. During the referees' lockout, the league brought in replacement referees for the first three weeks of the season.

Two days prior to the two sides agreeing on a new CBA, replacement referees flubbed a defining play in a now-infamous Monday Night Football game between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks. 

It is now known as the "Fail Mary Game" as officials controversially ruled a touchdown amid a chaotic scene in the end zone that allowed the Seahawks to beat the Packers 14-12 on the last play of the game. 

Under the CBA, among many things, the league had the option to hire officials on a full-time basis year-round. Ahead of last season, the NFL hired 24 full-time referees.

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The current CBA will come to an end following the 2019 season, and according to Seifert, "both sides hope to avoid a repeat" of the 2012 lockout. The NFL certainly doesn't want another Fail Mary situation on its hands.

However, Seifert noted the league's decision to shelve the full-time program for now "will have minimal impact on officiating this season" as most full-time officials' responsibilities pertain to the offseason.