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Basic Understanding of Labor Law Lost in NFL Referee Case
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The National Football League (NFL) and the officials' union have reached a tentative eight-year agreement that ends a lockout that began in June. Questionable calls by replacement crews led to public outrage and calls for the NFL to end its dispute quickly.
Daniel S. Bowling III
Senior lecturing fellow, Duke University Law School
Bowling teaches labor and employment law with an emphasis on its practical application, particularly in the context of union organizing. He is also a practicing labor and employment lawyer.
"The settlement of the NFL referees' lockout seems to be a classic compromise, where the NFL upped the economic value of its package while gaining the right to have additional trained referees on hand and lessen its future pension obligations.
"What was lost in the public discourse was a basic comprehension of the role of replacements in the U.S. labor law scheme, and a demand that the NFL abandon its bargaining position because of a bad call during Monday Night Football.
"Strikes, lockouts and replacements are not only legal, they are encouraged by our statutory scheme, which is designed for 'private resolution' of labor-management issues. We are not well-served when an uninformed sports media drives public coverage of a labor matter without a better understanding of facts, law and policy."
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