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What others say: NFL class warfare during referee lockout

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Published: Thursday, Sept. 27 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Seattle Seahawks' Brandon Mebane (92) is blocked by Green Bay Packers' Jeff Saturday (63) during an NFL football game, Monday, Sept. 24, 2012, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Associated Press

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The following editorial appeared recently in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

We interrupt the presidential campaign, every other political campaign, the looming "fiscal cliff," Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and the rollout of the iPhone5 to note that on Tuesday, the biggest story in America was that the Green Bay Packers lost a "Monday Night Football" game to the Seattle Seahawks because a replacement official blew a call.

Oh, the humanity.

There's actually a lot to like in this story, unless you're a Packers fan and/or you had some of the $250 million reportedly bet on the Packers on Monday night. Wisconsin's union-busting Gov. Scott Walker took to his Twitter account Tuesday morning to demand the return of locked-out union referees.

Oh, the irony.

Then there's the unfortunate Lance Easley, a vice president of small business banking at Bank of America in Santa Maria, Calif. In his spare time, Easley referees junior college and high school football and basketball. When the NFL locked out its officials this summer, Easley decided to move up in class. He was the side judge who blew the call Monday night.

Bankers don't cause all of the nation's problems. Just this one. And a few others.

The 121 members of the National Football League Referees Association have been locked out since their collective bargaining agreement expired this year. They're part-timers who are paid very well-beginning at about $70,000 for 20 weekends of work. Senior officials make well into six figures.

Money isn't the big issue, though. As with firefighters, cops and teachers, the big issue is pensions.

Unlike public employees, the refs' employer, thanks to a socialistic business model that divides TV revenue, has lots and lots of money. The NFL has been paying into a "defined benefit" pension plan for the refs since 1974. A referee who is fully vested will receive at least $100,000 a year when he retires.

But the league wants to do away with pensions and go to the less expensive (for the owners) 401(k) plan. As NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell put it, "About 10 percent of the country has (a defined benefit plan). Yours truly doesn't have that."

Of course, his truly makes $10 million a year running the league office, which, by the way is organized as a not-for-profit corporation, because he has valuable skills that referees don't.

You turn on "Monday Night Football," and suddenly class warfare breaks out. At least maybe this way people will pay attention.

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