So the replacement refs are not good. What now?

The scab NFL refs, you might have noticed, are awful at officiating football games. This leads to some awful football events like those that occurred at the end of last night’s Seahawks-Packers game, awful calls at a seemingly higher rate than they came last year, and an awful lurching pace to games as the fill-in guys run around trying to figure out what happens next.

Speaking of: If you’ve determined that the NFL’s replacement refs suck to the point that they are impacting the quality of NFL football — as they obviously did last night — what recourse do you have, as a football fan, to encourage the NFL and its officials to squash the beef?

That’s not rhetorical, really.

The best I can think of is for everyone to stop watching NFL football until its settled. But since the NFL has a monopoly on professional football and professional football is a juggernaut, that doesn’t seem likely to happen. Maybe we’re all just going to abide the scab refs until they improve or are replaced by better scab refs because we just can’t get enough football.

A more palatable but certainly less effective alternative is for everyone to whine and moan about it so much that the public-relations hit forces the league to flinch. That’s sort of what this post is about. But it’s going to take a hell of a lot more than this to do that. The NFL mints money off a bloodsport that we plan our weeks around and tune our flatscreens to every Sunday, Monday and Thursday like we’re the brainwashed populous of some dystopian future. The NFL is Big Brother and we have always been at war with the NFL Referees Association. Or something. The NFL can take its knocks without breaking.

The players present a wild card in the process. Clearly the replacement officials jeopardize player safety, and the players taking a unified stand against the league’s position could help the process along. But while the NFLPA is sympathetic to the refs’ cause, it insists there’s nothing it can do beyond writing strongly worded letters as “they’re not permitted to strike under any terms other than the security of their union.”

But if they’re claiming that the league “failed in [its] obligation to provide as safe a working environment as possible,” isn’t that a pretty legit gripe? Some football players die from the long-term effects of the head injuries they suffer. The NFL will make more than $9 billion in revenue this year off football players playing football. Who really holds the cards? No one wants to see Roger Goodell play football, right? No one wants to see Jerry Jones in a three-point stance across the line of scrimmage from Jim Irsay, at least not for more than a quarter.

What if in all the 1 o’clock games this Sunday, the players called the coin toss, returned to their sidelines, then just stayed there for a few extra minutes to remind everyone who actually does the football playing in football? No macho b.s., just a group of men who risk their health for their jobs so that they can make some money (and some other guys can make way, way more money) standing up for themselves to demand the safest possible incredibly dangerous workplace? Would anyone blame them for that? Would the league really sue?

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