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“"In America it is the employer's obligation to provide as safe a working environment as possible," Smith told the website. "We believe that if the National Football League fails in that obligation, we reserve the right to seek any relief that we believe is appropriate. The NFL has chosen to prevent the very officials that they have trained, championed and cultivated for decades to be on the field to protect players and -- by their own admission -- further our goal of enhanced safety. That is absurd on its face." Despite receiving vocal support from commissioner Roger Goodell, replacement referees have been criticized throughout the preseason. Smith blamed the NFL for the impasse with the officials, claiming that the league has prioritized financial concerns over player safety. "There are really three fundamental facts that are inescapable," Smith said. "One, the players and the league have made tremendous strides in trying to make the game safer over the last three years. The second fact is, at the players' urging, the National Football League last year gave the referees more power to spot and deal with a concussed or injured player. The third inescapable fact is, over the last 20 years the league has done everything to maintain an experienced referee corps. "When you look at the referees combined, you're talking about nearly 1,500 years of NFL experience. The National Football League puts such an emphasis on experience that in normal situations they only introduce a rookie referee into the league with a team of experienced officials. All three of those things are unassailable facts, so given those three facts why would anyone choose to break away from the one new referee with a team of experienced referees and go to a full slate of new referees? The only conclusion that I have is that the league cares more about money than it does about the experience of the referees as a vehicle to increase player safety." The league and the NFL Referees Association have yet to reach an agreement, prompting Goodell to acknowledge last week that using replacement referees for regular-season games is a realistic possibility. Goodell said last Thursday that the replacement officials will do "a very credible job" if needed in the regular season and describes the NFL's differences in negotiations with the NFLRA as "philosophical."
The NFL has chosen to prevent the very officials that they have trained, championed and cultivated for decades to be on the field to protect players and -- by their own admission -- further our goal of enhanced safety. That is absurd on its face.” -- NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith in interview with SI.com