After nearly a month of criticism by fans and sports analysts, and harsh words from some of the leagues top and most respected players, the NFL has finally come to an agreement with the officials union.
As was reported on digital journal, the call on the final play of Monday's game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers created a fervor across the United States, and beyond. More than 70,000 angry voicemails were left for the commissioner following the Packers-Seahawks game according to another Digital Journal article.
This photo showing fans confidence in the replacement officials began circulating on facebook Monday:
On Monday, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees told ESPN Radio: "There's definitely a lack of confidence in what's going to get called and what's not going to get called.... You know, they're just not prepared to be in this situation. The game is so fast, and the level that all of them were at and now are at -- it just doesn't even compare. You know, I think it's getting to a point where it's pretty horrendous and it's an embarrassment to the league and the way it's being conducted."
The Boston Herald reported that Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rogers dismissed the NFL's statement in support of the officials’ handling of the situation, calling it a "bogus report."USA Today quotes Rogers as saying: "I call bull on that because they say 'officials.' Those two guys have zero communication, zero eye contact. I love this league and love the game of football, but tonight's debacle hurts me greatly. This is NOT the league we're supposed to represent."
The play that created the uproar can be seen in this YouTube video:
Well there is finally good news for players, the officials union, who has been locked out since June, and most of all the fans. After two days of marathon negotiations, which was attended by Commissioner Roger Goodell, the NFL and the referees' union have reached an agreement.
According to NFL.com The agreement between the NFL and the NFL Referees Association (NFLRA) is an eight-year deal. Commissioner Roger Goodell said the refs will be back on the field starting Thursday night.
In his official statement, Goodall said the agreement is the longest with the game officials in NFL history. His statement went on to say: "The long-term future of our game requires that we seek improvement in every area, including officiating. This agreement supports long-term reforms that will make officiating better. The teams, players and fans want and deserve both consistency and quality in officiating.
We look forward to having the finest officials in sports back on the field, and I want to give a special thanks to NFL fans for their passion. Now it's time to put the focus back on the teams and players where it belongs."
The NFLRA said the deal keeps the current benefit pension plan in place for current officials through the 2016 season or until the official earns 20 years' service. The newly agreed to plan gives retirement benefits to new hires, and for all officials beginning in 2017. The annual league contribution per official will start at more then $18,000 and increase to more than $23,000 in 2019. The deal also has the NFL making a partial match on any additional contribution that an official makes to his 401(k) account according to Sports Illustrated. The salary of officials has risen from an average of $149,000 a year in 2011 to $173,000 in 2013, and $205,000 by 2019.
The pensions and salary issue had been the sticking point since the lock out began. Fox Sports writer Bill Reiter, credits the irate fans for helping get the deal done, saying: "You did this, America. Your rage and angst and unwillingness to let Roger Goodell and his NFL make a mockery of your game fixed a replacement-referee debacle that had turned football into a national farce."
He went on to say: "Call it the Fans’ Rebellion. Credit the players, too, for adding their weight to a push strong enough to nudge a stubborn commissioner and complicit owners toward an overdue deal with the locked-out officials."
Fan reaction to the agreement has been flooding the internet. Twitter lit up with excited fans sharing their views. One fan tweeted: "YAY for the NFL officials being back! Tonight's game is going to be fun to watch!" Another say: "Thank god the officials are back for Thursday night football" Hundreds of comments have poured in on ESPN as well, with one fan suggesting: "Ed Hochuli needs to take the field tonight to the tune of Beyonce " Irreplaceable."!"