The standoff between the NFL and its referees took another ugly turn on Friday. Jerry Markbreit, an NFL official for more than three decades, and eight other officials were told to turn in their equipment by the league for refusing to train replacement referees, according to a report from Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times.
The nine former officials fired have provided training for NFL referees for a decade, with 22 Super Bowls between them. Prospective replacement officials, culled from the ranks of high school and junior college refs, met in Dallas for training on Friday.
Markbreit and the others never received an official termination notice from the league. Instead, they were asked to return computers provided to them by the league.
"They wanted us to train the replacements, which we would absolutely not do," Markbreit said. "We were all officials for 20-plus years .... How could we face our people? There wasn't a question about us doing this. We knew this was coming.
"It's very discouraging for [the league] to have put us in this kind of situation."
The NFL locked out the referee association on June 3, when the two sides failed to reach a new labor agreement. At issue are pay increases and a defined benefit plan. The league has proposed moving away from the current pension system in favor of something along the lines of a 401k plan.
With no agreement, the NFL will proceed with using replacement referees. The union and others have criticized that plan as a risk to player safety and the overall competitiveness of the game.