From a business perspective the NFL is doing the right thing by holding its ground in negotiations with the NFL Referees Association (NFLRA).
As a fan I wish the veteran officials were on the field starting Week 1, no doubt, but from a long-term business perspective the NFL is doing the right thing.
History has taught us one important lesson when negotiating with labor unions:
Precedent matters. Big time.
The NFL as a business is making the right long-term decision by providing a fair offer to the officials and then standing firmly behind it.
The Pressure Against the NFL
Mike Greenberg of ESPN's Mike & Mike program gave a great summary this morning of the pressures on the NFL to quickly resolve the labor negotiations.
One of Greenie's main points was the NFL has a "license to print money" and can easily afford to pay referees higher wages.
But remember, when it comes to labor negotiations, precedent matters.
Just because the NFL can pay the 20% raises the NFLRA is seeking, it doesn't mean the NFL should.
The "License to Print Money" Fallacy
If the NFL adopts the mentality of we can afford to pay you more, therefore we will, this mentality will be used against the NFL in every future negotiation with players and referees alike.
But again, precedent matters in labor negotiations.
If the NFL agrees to pay officials significantly more money because the league is profitable, the NFL will lose significant leverage in all future negotiations.
The NFL is thinking long-term by standing firm on what it considers to be a fair offer to the union.
Long-term is the only way to think during labor negotiations.
The Accountant Example
Well-run, profitable businesses like the NFL attract and retain top talent by providing competitive compensation based upon the value of a given job and the expertise of the person doing that job.
As such the NFL should pay referees based on the value of their jobs, not based on the profitability of the league.
To illustrate this point, assume you have an accountant you rely heavily upon to keep your personal finances in order. Your accountant is among the best, but occasionally makes glaring mistakes (just like NFL referees) which are later corrected (or, for referees, "overturned" after review.)
Over the last several years you have worked hard, been promoted, and spent your money wisely. You are now worth substantially more today than you were five years ago.
Your accountant continues to perform the same function with the same performance as before your net worth increased.
If your accountant asked you for a significant raise - simply because you can afford it now - would you give it to him?
No, you would not.
You would pay your accountant competitively, but his value is not correlated to your personal net worth.
The NFL is trying to do the same thing.
Remember, my point here is that the NFL is absolutely taking the right long-term business approach during these negotiations with the NFLRA.
As a fan, however, I want the best officials possible to be the field - right now!
The best officials are obviously the veteran NFL officials. I hope the two sides come to an agreement quickly to ensure the best possible product on the field.
But if the negotiations continue on for several more weeks, don't blame the NFL for not paying the official more simply because it can.
You wouldn't do it for your accountant.
And neither should the NFL.
Andrew Sweat is a die-hard Panthers fan. For more from this author, visit Andrew's archive or check these out articles:
- American Football
- Sports & Recreation