By Chris Durden & Pilar Pedraza
KWCH 12 Eyewitness News
8:50 PM CDT, September 25, 2012
From Seattle to Miami, San Diego to Green Bay -- the labor dispute between NFL referees, the league and team owners has the entire country talking. Here are the basics.
Representatives of the National Football League, including commissioner Roger Goodell held a fourth straight day of meetings Tuesday with the locked-out NFL Referees Assocation in New York City.A labor dispute has put replacement officials on the field for the first three weeks of the season.
The biggest issue remains the referees' retirement plan. The regular referees want to keep their defined-benefit pension while the league wants to move the NFLRA to a 401k system.
The regular referees are part-time and many longtime officials opted out of retirement plans at the full-time jobs because of the NFL pension.
Other issues involve pay and adding 21 officials to the current roster of 121. The NFL also wants to evcualate officiating crews on a weekly basis and bench crews for poor performance.
The Kansas Connection
Current officials from Division I (BCS or the FCS) are not calling NFL games. Many of the replacement referees come from Division II, Division II, JUCO, even high school.
Eyewitness News has learned an official who worked the Bishop Carroll game three weeks ago traveled to Denver the following Sunday. He helped call the game against Pittsburgh.
Moving from a high school football field to a college one is difficult enough. But going pro is a totally different story.
"They'll put in easily 30 hours, maybe 40 hours in a given week in preparation for a game, the actual game and then the debriefing that comes along with a game." said Greg Mudd, a Wichita area referee. Mudd knows what he's talking about. He's refereed basketball, baseball and football games, mostly at the high school level. But, a few years ago he was a replacement umpire during a minor league umpire strike.
He says, whether it's baseball or football, having a solid grasp of the difference in rules from one level to the next is vital. But that's not what requires the most adjustment for the replacement referees.
"I think the biggest difference, the biggest challenge for the officials is just the speed of the game," said Mudd.
As the season wears on, Mudd says things are going to get even more difficult for the replacements, given what's already happened, with increased scrutiny coming every week.
The first two weeks have the 2012 season have been filled with missed calls, questionable penalties and controversial decisions.
The NFL has fined Denver Broncos Coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio for their behavior toward replacement referees during the Sept. 17 game between Denver and Atlanta.
Fines may also be levied against New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick, Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and Baltimore Ravens Coach John Harbaugh for their comments and actions against the replacement referees.
After three weeks, the final staw may have come Monday night.
The NFL is agreeing with the replay officials' decision not to overturn a controversial call on the final play of Seattle's 14-12 victory over Green Bay Monday night. The league does say that Seahawks receiver Golden Tate should have been flagged for offensive interference before catching a last-second TD pass, but that's a non-correctable error. The Packers feel that safety M.D. Jennings had possession of the ball before Tate latched onto it.
"Got ****** by the refs.. Embarrassing. Thanks nfl" Green Bay Packers guard T.J. Lang Tweeted after the game. Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley Tweeted, "...Caused us a DAMN game. Horrible!".
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers apologized to fans on Tuesday during a radio show.
"First of all, I've got to do something that the NFL is not going to do: I have to apologize to the fans. Our sport is a multi-billion dollar machine, generated by people who pay good money to come watch us play. The product on the field is not being complemented by an appropriate set of officials. The games are getting out of control."
Las Vegas oddsmakers say $300 million or more changed hands worldwide on Monday's controversial call. Gambling expert RJ Bell of Las Vegas-based Pregame.com says he thinks two-thirds of bets worldwide were on the Packers, and that sports books took in at least $150 million because of the call.
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