The NFL and referees may have a deal to end the lockout.
The league locked out referees in June after the two parties couldn’t agree on pay, retirement and operational issues. The season has, so far, been officiated by replacement officials.
ESPN reports they made “enough progress in negotiations Tuesday night that the possibility of the locked-out officials returning in time to work this week’s games has been discussed.”
They reportedly reached an agreement in principle. The new deal reportedly includes a “ratification bonus” that awards the referees union for making concessions to reach a deal with the NFL.
One big sticking point has been a 21-member “taxi squad” of new officials pushed by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The referees union reportedly agreed to the group as long as they aren’t required to unionize them and the union doesn’t have to pay for them if they are called up to work a regular-season game.
That might be enough to satisfy Goodell’s desire for the power to “bench” officials who don’t perform well. The referees union said the league already had that power to some extent since qualified substitutes are available because not all crews work every week.
Pension issues have also reportedly been resolved.
Whether the deal can be finalized and both sides can be ready in time for games Sunday, September 30 was still unclear. League sources reportedly said it would take a week for locked-out officials to return to the field.