Inside the Capitol

Monday, October 01, 2012

FW: 10 1 revised NFL column

100112 NFL Cong revised

SANTA FE – Nearly everyone of importance weighed in on the National Football League's lockout of its referees. As bad calls affected an increasing number of games, even the leader of the free world said he would like to see the regular referees back.
Presidential candidate Mitt Romney expressed his desire to see the replacement referees replaced. GOP vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan added politics to the issue by suggesting that the replacements have been so bad they may actually work in President Barack Obama's budget office.
It's just a wild guess but I would venture that Congress may get involved eventually. Americans love their sports. Actually the entire world has at least one sport about which it goes wild. I can't understand how people can get so excited about soccer but their crowds are wilder than ours.
A hundred years ago, when baseball was America's sport the federal courts unjustifiably exempted Major League Baseball from the federal Antitrust Act. Several additional challenges have been brought since then but the courts answer that any changes are up to Congress.
Congress likes it the way it is so no other baseball league has been able to challenge Major League Baseball. None would want to now but in the first half of the 20th century, many tried.
Now that football is the most watched sport, it might be in for some congressional help of its own. The owners can't claim poverty. The average franchise is worth $1.1 billion. The league generates around $9 billion a year.
How did the lockout affecting business? Attendance was steady and TV viewership was up. Fans didn't want to miss the next officiating fiasco. So there was no pressure on owners to settle until a grossly bad call made life too embarrassing for owners. Otherwise they can could have waited until the referees' union agreed to their demands.
The biggest pressure on owners was expected to be when key players got hurt because the replacement referees let games get out of control. Congress might try to come to the rescue anyway.
The problem is that as a large private employer, the NFL is required by the National Labor Relations Act to collectively bargain with its employees. But if Major League Baseball can be exempted from the federal Antitrust Act, the NFL just might be able to be exempted from the NLRA.
The most egregious miscall by officials robbed the Green Bay Packers of a victory on Monday Night Football a week ago. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker loudly called for the unionized referees to return. Many interpreted that to mean Walker was supporting the union.
But that was a false hope. This is the governor who made collective bargaining for public employees illegal in Wisconsin last year. He did not suddenly become a union supporter.
If Gov. Walker happens to want to end bargaining rights for NFL employees, he likely would have to go no further than Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan to find someone willing to champion such a measure. And if Ryan becomes vice president, he can be an even stronger influence.
The sticking point in the bargaining talks was the retirement program. The referees have a defined benefit plan, which owners want to switch to a defined contribution plan, such as a 401K.
The defined benefit plan provides much more retirement security but can financially devastate an employer if the economy goes sour. That is the problem the state of New Mexico has with its retirement plans for public employees.
A bad economy and some highly unwise investments have the state's two retirement systems scrambling to raise contributions and decrease benefits.
By the time you read this, the regular refs will be back on the field. Players and coaches both supported the referees. Most politicians and the general public were clamoring for an end.
It is hard not to feel some pity for the replacement referees but the owners aren't feeling sorry for anyone.
To: ;
Subject: 10 1 revised NFL column
Date: Thu, 27 Sep 2012 06:25:35 -0600
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Wouldn't you know, the day I wrote this, the owners seemed unmoved by Monday night's event. The following day they were patching everything up. I revised the column but gave 'em hell anyway.


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