The real bone of contention in The Great NFL Referee Lock-Out Destroying The Integrity of The Game Clusterfuck:
The referees’ union and NFL team owners remain at odds on several issues — pay, staffing levels and the arbitration system, to name a few. But Scott Green, the referee who’s head of the NFL Referees Association, says there’s one proposal above all others that he and his colleagues can’t manage to swallow: the league wants to freeze their long-running pension plans and switch them to less attractive 401(k)-style retirement plans.
“The key is the pension issue,” Green told HuffPost, adding that the pensions have been around since the mid-1970s. “A lot of our guys have made life-career decisions based on assuming that pension would be there.”
In facing a pension freeze, the NFL refs have plenty of company. Corporations across the country have been trying to switch their employees from traditional defined benefit pension plans to cheaper, less reliable defined contribution plans. Just one example is Con-Ed, which recently locked out workers as it tried to phase out employees’ traditional pensions and move them to 401(k)s.
But in this case, employees are squaring off with an ownership that doesn’t pretend to be under financial duress. According to Forbes, the average NFL team is now worth $1.1 billion, up 7 percent over the previous year. To draw a blue-collar parallel, the league is a bit like the manufacturer Caterpillar, which has been pressuring its workers to bend to concessions despite the company’s record profits.
Indeed, when HuffPost asked NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to address the pension issue on Wednesday, he didn’t argue that the league’s retirement contributions to referees had grown too onerous. Instead, he simply noted the fact that American workers in general are losing their defined benefit pensions. Even Roger Goodell, Goodell noted, doesn’t enjoy such a pension plan.
“From the owners’ standpoint, right now they’re funding a pension program that is a defined benefit program,” said Goodell, who was in Washington on Wednesday attending a luncheon hosted by Politico’s Playbook. “About ten percent of the country has that. Yours truly doesn’t have that. It’s something that doesn’t really exist anymore and that I think is going away steadily.”
“What we agreed to do and offer as ownership,” he added, “is that they would have a defined contribution plan, in the form of 401(k), so they’ll still have a pension plan but the risk, like [for] most of us, would be on individuals.”
So the officials will have to scrape along in their golden years just like Roger Goodell.
This Roger Goodell:
Roger Goodell recently received a five-year contract extension from the NFL, and according to a report, his salary will “double” up to $20 million annually by the end of the deal.
That news comes from Daniel Kaplan of the Sports Business Journal, who also reports that Arthur Blank, Falcons owner and head of the NFL’s compensation committee, said Goodell’s new deal will “bring Goodell in line [financially] with other top sports commissioners.”
“If you compare [Goodell] to any of the other commissioners in other sports, we think he would rank very high in that group, and he needs to be compensated on that basis,” Blank said at the Super Bowl.
MLB commissioner Bud Selig made $18.35 million in 2007, per Kaplan, and has since received two contract extensions. It is a logical assumption that Selig is paid more than $20 million annually at this point.
Goodell received $9.89 million in base salary according to federal tax returns filed by the NFL last year. Though we won’t know the actual number of Goodell’s new base salary until the next time the NFL files its tax returns (which could be as early as Wednesday), it stands to reason that Goodell will see a significant bump in his base, given that he received the extension just a few weeks ago.
After Monday night’s
game debacle, it safe to say that we haven’t seen the head of an organization damage their brand this badly since Nancy Brinker let Karen Handel herd the Komen cash cow onto the killing floor. That turned out real well now, didn’t it?
I should add that I couldn’t really care less about football. It’s something to goof on and kill time with and that is about it. I can rarely make it through a complete game without dozing off or wandering off like a bored toddler, and every time the local owner makes rumblings about moving because he wants a broke-ass city to build him a new stadium that will get used maybe fifteen times a year, I offer to help load up the U-Hauls and pitch in for gas. For more on how cities are screwed by the owners of major sports franchises, I recommend Dave Zirin’s Bad Sports.