Corporate Arrogance and Citizen Ignorance: NFL, Refs and Labor
The NFL referee strike is a microcosm of the negative image labor has in the United States.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell makes $10 million a year and by 2019 is set to make $20 million working for the NFL owners. In the meantime, Goodell is fighting the referees over pensions and job security. So while he makes millions, owners fight to reduce referee compensation that would only cost about “$62,000 per team, per week”, “the same as one 30 second ad during the Superbowl,” according to Dave Zirin, sports writer for the nation. This is a trifle for a $9.3 billion dollar business.
Roger Goodell, ala Mitt Romney, points out that he doesn’t have a pension, as if someone earning between $10 and $20 million dollars a year could be easily compared to your average ref making $149,000 a year. Certainly, the referees are well compensated for their part time, though year round work. However, just because only 10 percent of American workers receive a pension doesn’t mean the refs should loose theirs. It’s the same rhetoric Scott Walker used to attack teachers, fire fighters and other public workers in Wisconsin. The logic is that public workers shouldn't have a pension if others don’t. Instead, the question should be “why don’t more workers get pensions?”
Many workers resent the fact that some people get better benefits than they do, like those damn teachers and now the refs; therefore, they are against unions. Michael Schottey of the Bleacher Report writes that, “While many NFL fans will never make the money that an NFL referee earns, perhaps the pension argument could prick the emotions of Americans everywhere who have seen their own pensions disappear over the past decade.” The logic is that because some people have lost their pensions, others should lose theirs.
The problem isn’t that some people have pensions, the problem is that so few workers do and so many have lost theirs in the last few years. The owners, like Scott Walker and other anti-labor politicians, are cleverly using the resentment against others having it better than them to create divisiveness amongst workers while the income gap between the rich and the rest of us keeps expanding.
Instead of trying to bring down their fellow laborers, why don’t workers demand their own pensions? It’s because workers are individually powerless to fight owners and corporations and are collectively handcuffed, unable to unionize or work as a block. It is easier and safer for workers to displace their resentment of low wages, lack of work, and lack of job security by attacking other workers instead of bringing their concerns to their bosses or the faceless corporations. This is counterproductive and will only aid the corporate owners in lowering wages and pushing more onerous working conditions on all of us. So while we might not be able to fight corporate power and ask for a fair share of earnings from our labor, we can at least support those that do have enough power and courage to ask for what they deserve.
This is not only an issue of pay, it’s about what the teams make and can pay for quality refs if they weren’t penny pinching cheapskates. NFL teams are making tens of millions of dollars of profit every year, but somehow, they can’t continue to pay into refs pensions. It’s the same everywhere. Companies demand ever increasing profit margins, and the workers have to take cuts in pay and benefits so those demands can be met.
In the long run, the NFL has bigger problems with increasing traumatic brain injuries and lawsuits. And as Dave Zirin writes regarding the replacement referees, “…these incompetents are in charge of monitoring the health and safety of players.” And the replacement refs aren’t getting the job done.
So much for caring about the integrity of the game that the owners and the commissioner pretend to care about. As long as their profits don’t suffer, they don’t care about the safety of the players nor the integrity of the game, let alone having referees that are trained to get the call right more often than not.