NFL Statement on Negotiations with the Game Officials

We have great respect for our officials and in keeping with that view have made a proposal that includes substantial increases in compensation for all game officials. 

We have negotiated in good faith since last October. We accepted the union’s suggestion that we involve federal mediators in the negotiations.  We are available to meet with the NFLRA at any time to negotiate a new contract.


That is absolutely false.  We have negotiated in good faith for the past nine months.  In addition to two sessions with the federal mediator, we have had nine other bargaining sessions with the union since last October.  We are available to meet with the NFLRA at any time to negotiate a new contract.


Our seven-year proposal (through 2018) offered healthy annual compensation increases of between 5 and 11 percent for each individual official.

In 2011, the average pay for NFL game officials was $149,000.  Under our last proposal, that would increase to more than $189,000 by 2018.

A game official in his first year in 2011 made an average of $78,000. Under our last proposal, he would make more than $165,000 by the end of the new agreement.

A game official who was in his fifth year in 2011, and earned an average of $115,000, would earn more than $183,000 in 2018 under our last proposal.

And an official in his 10th year, who earned an average of $139,000 last year, would earn more than $200,000 by the end of our proposal.

Officials that qualify for postseason games, or are referees, would earn substantially more.

Compare this to pay increases in the broader economy – the Wall Street Journal reported last May that from 2005 through the first quarter for 2012, “for public and private civilian employers of all sorts, labor costs were basically flat.”  We offered annual increases of between 5 and 11 percent.


No game official will lose any vested pension benefit under our proposal and the clubs will fully fund all pension obligations.   We have proposed to freeze the current defined benefit plan and replace it with a defined contribution/401(k) arrangement.  According to the New York Times, only 17 percent of American workers currently have a defined benefit plan and the trend is overwhelmingly in the direction of freezing those plans.  A 2009 paper from the Social Security Administration reported that “many employers have frozen their DB plans and some experts expect most private-sector defined benefit plans will be frozen in the next few years and eventually terminated.”

Under our proposal, game officials would have a defined contribution retirement arrangement under which each official would receive annual contributions starting at $16,500 and increasing to almost $23,000, plus a wide range of investment opportunities.


We proposed a transition from the defined benefit plan that is intended to provide them a LARGER retirement benefit than under the old defined plan. The officials would retain all the benefits that they currently have under that plan. We have proposed a new defined contribution arrangement that would replace the defined benefit plan. This plan is the same kind of pension plan (a defined contribution plan) that everyone has at the league office and that many clubs now have.

We offered to contribute $16,500 per official in 2012 and increase that amount to almost $23,000 by 2018. 


We only began the process of hiring replacements when the NFLRA told us of its intention to have its members authorize the union leadership to call a strike. 

In order to ensure that there is no disruption to NFL games this season we began last month hiring and training replacement officials. These experienced and high-quality officials will be prepared to work preseason games, beginning with the Pro Football Hall of Fame game on August 5.  We have made substantial investments in training despite the efforts of the NFLRA to denigrate the replacements and disrupt the training process. 

Our goal is to maintain the highest quality of officiating for our teams, players, and fans, including proper enforcement of the playing rules and efficient management of our games.

We are confident that these game officials will enforce rules relating to player safety.   Contrary to NFLRA leadership, we do not believe that players will “play dirty” or intentionally break the rules.

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