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Published: Saturday, 9/29/2012


It's not peace in the Middle East, but there is likely rejoicing in millions of American living rooms today. The National Football League has reached an agreement with its referees' union aimed at ending the no-calls and blown calls by replacement referees that were infuriating fans, players, and Las Vegas odds makers.

What did NFL team owners and officials gain by fighting with their referees over $3.3 million a year in pension payouts? Almost nothing.

The referees got most of what they wanted -- more money for themselves and their pension fund. The owners got a public-relations black eye, fan animosity, and ridicule by everyone from late-night talk-show hosts to politicians.

The dispute should not have been allowed to reach the point that NFL games were officiated by people who weren't good enough to work in the Lingerie League. The NFL, a business worth nearly $10 billion, drew a line in the sand over a little more than $103,000 a year for each of its 32 teams -- a comparative pittance -- and had sand kicked in its face.

Regular officials returned for last Thursday's game between the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens. They are expected to work a full slate of games today.

They may get a bigger hand than the players. They'll deserve it. And league owners and executives deserve an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty for damaging the NFL brand.

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