On NFL Lockout Fan rage turns the tide for workers
On NFL Lockout
Fan rage turns the tide for workers
Published 5:58 p.m., Wednesday, September 26, 2012
By Jack Heyman
The hottest debate today is not about the war in Afghanistan or the economy. It's the public rage against the lockout by team owners of the referees who are demanding defined-benefit pensions and full-time jobs in the National Football League.
In Monday night's game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers, scab referees ruled, indecisively and confusingly, in the final play of America's (and my) favorite spectator sport. The call: a touchdown for the Seahawks rather than a touchback, stole a win from the Packers. Millions watching knew it was Millions watching knew it was clearly wrong. The integrity of the game and the $9 billion in NFL annual revenues are at stake.
NFL Replay Official Howard Slavin, a member of the locked-out National Football League Referees Association, upheld the touchdown. Working during the lockout made him vulnerable to pressure from his boss, NFL head Roger Goodell, to uphold the bad call. The NFL cover-up is like fixing a fight, and raises the question of how the public will view football from now on.
Social and traditional media are abuzz about the call, with the public directing its ire against the owners' organization, the NFL. Yet, the referees union has not even organized a picket line or a rally. American workers do have the right to protest, yet the referees may fear that if they do, they are likely to be jailed, their unions fined or their jobs filled by scabs - or all of the above. Such is the state of labor in the leading so-called industrial democracy.
In the United States, owners and governments rule with a heavy hand and workers obey; union protests are damned. Teachers, firefighters and sanitation workers are blamed for creating inflated government budgets, not the bankers or Wall Street or automakers who dominate and run the economy. Instead, they're the ones who get bailed out.
Even strong unions like the longshoremen are cowed into accepting 12-hour shifts or into extending contracts past expiration dates. Workers are seeing their homes foreclosed, and pensions, wages and jobs cut.
The NFL lockout could be the turning of the tide for workers. President Obama, the first black president, was silent when Troy Davis, an innocent black man, was put to death in a controversial execution by Georgia last year but felt compelled to comment on this issue. Even Wisconsin Republicans Gov. Scott Walker and vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, both vehemently antiunion, have called for the lockout to be ended. As of Wednesday night, negotiations were at hand. Of the 32 NFL teams, only the Green Bay Packers are owned collectively by their fans - 112,158 of them. The other teams are privately owned. One sports announcer opined that the Green Bay team should be privately owned too so that it can help end the NFL lockout. What if all professional sports teams were owned collectively? Then the profit motive is removed. Referees would get pensions and players would get adequate safety gear in a rough sport.
The economy is important after all, but it is a one-sided conflict with employers enhancing profits by increasing the exploitation of workers. Maybe the NFL refs' struggle can begin to overturn this one.
Jack Heyman, a devout Raiders fan, is a retired longshoreman who frequently writes on labor and politics.