NFL Refs to Receive $30K Stipend, Guaranteed Job in 2021 If Opting Out of 2020

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistAugust 9, 2020

NFL referee Shawn Smith (14) gestures after a penalty against the Seattle Seahawks during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020, in Philadelphia. The Seahawks won 17-9. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Julio Cortez/Associated Press

The NFL and NFL Referee Association reached an agreement on safety protocols for game officials for the 2020 season, including a $30,000 stipend for those who want to opt out over safety concerns.

Under terms of the agreement, referees who take the leave of absence will have their job guaranteed for the 2021 season. Game officials make about $200,000 on average over a typical season of work.

"There is nothing more important than the health and safety of our members," said NFLRA Executive Director Scott Green. "Although there will undoubtedly be some risk for our officials, we are pleased to have finalized a plan with the League that provides additional benefits and protections during this unprecedented season."

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk reported the payment is not a salary advance, and officials will not be forced to repay the $30,000. NFL players who opt out of the season voluntarily receive a $150,000 stipend that they have to repay. Those who are considered at high risk receive $350,000 and do not have to repay the stipend.

As a collective, referees are at a higher risk than players to have COVID-19 complications because of their age. The average referee is over 50 years old, meaning they would be above three-to-five times more likely to require hospitalization than the average NFL player. 

If an official tests positive for COVID-19, the league will offer injury pay and medical expenses.