DeMaurice Smith Calls The NFL Referee Lockout “A Stupid Idea” That Is Jeopardizing the Safety of the Players

September 24, 2012 – 7:30 am by Brad Gagnon

The NFL just wrapped up a third Sunday with replacement officials, and the outrage level certainly hasn’t dropped. The league and its officials met on the weekend but reports indicate there are still significant differences between the two parties, which could indicate the replacements won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.

The players can’t be happy about that, and their leader isn’t shy about voicing those frustrations.

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith joined Inside the Locker Room on ESPN 980 in Washington, D.C., to discuss the ongoing lockout of the NFL’s officials, the replacements, and Smith’s belief that they threaten the health and safety of the players he represents.

On the health and safety concern the NFLPA has with the replacement officials:

“We’re not looking to interfere or become involved with the negotiations between the referees and the National Football League, but what a lot of people miss — and certainly what a lot of commentators appear to miss — is the decision to pull the real referees off the field is just a unilateral one by these NFL owners. The fact that they could have left these guys on the field while they worked out their contract situation — that’s an easy call if you really care about the health and safety of the players on the field.”

On where the NFLPA stands right now and a potential lawsuit:

“We’ve asked the league to make sure that there is a sideline concussion expert at every game and — believe it or not — they’re fighting us on that, too. So where we come out on this is, one, we will continue to make sure that our players are informed and vocal about their opposition to having second-rate people on the field to make sure that their health and safety is protected. And we continue to look at whether or not we’ve got legal claims against the National Football League for violations of the CBA or violations of their obligation to keep the workplace as safe as possible.”

On the game being slower and more “choppy” with the replacement officials:

“You and I — even me as a casual fan of the game — can see first-hand just how slow, choppy, uneven this game is. Sometimes it’s like looking at video under the old dial-up.”

On his belief that the lockout is hypocritical:

“How can you come to a conclusion, in a new era of health and safety, to make a decision to pull the real referees off the field? And my guess is — in the direct telephone conversations between general managers and owners to the league office — my guess is that more general managers and more owners are upset about the situation than they let on. It’s time for the league office to come to the conclusion that this was just a really stupid idea, and certainly inconsistent with a true obligation to health and safety.”

Listen to DeMaurice Smith on ESPN 980 here

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