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When to Boycott Scab Labor and When Not to Boycott Scab Labor

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As some of you probably know, the NFL has refused to sign a new contract with the referees union and has pulled together crews of scab referee labor. They are terrible. The players are outraged, even in meaningless preseason games. The referees are incompetent amateurs way above their heads. It’s a joke, one that I think the NFL can only pull during the preseason. The calls have been so egregiously terrible that no one can take them seriously.

In the various labor communities in which I play a small role, there’s been talk that everyone should refuse to watch the NFL so that we don’t support scab labor.

While one can argue this might be a good tactic in other scenarios, I disagree here.*

The best way to get the refs a new contract is for the sporting world to watch and savage the incompetence. More so than any other professional sport, the real power behind the NFL is the fans. That’s especially true when it comes to issues like this–where fans can see the effect on their team’s chances to make the playoffs. The second a terrible call goes against a team and that call costs a team the game, you are going to have millions of people collectively infuriated with the NFL, putting enormous pressure on the league to give the referees a fair contract and bring sanity back to the league.

I think everyone knows this. The referees know they hold a lot of cards here (the fact that most of them are wealthy from other sources also helps). The NFL knows this too. Roger Goodell can give lip service to the scabs all he wants to, but he knows the consequences to him personally if the NFL becomes a laughing stock.

In fact, I find it highly unlikely that the replacement referees call even 1 regular season game. The first game this season is on Wednesday, September 5. I would bet dollars to doughnuts that an agreement is hashed out on the 3rd or 4th.

And if it isn’t, then the strategy is obvious–chronicle every bad call the refs make. The players and coaches will be screaming about it, the fan base will be screaming about it, and it will be THE STORY of the NFL in the early part of the season. That’s something the league can’t handle.

*In fact, I feel the boycott of scab labor is often a reflex used without a lot of analysis. Does it work? What is the best way to handle these issues? I don’t think these are questions even smart labor think about enough. That probably includes me. It probably is a good method frequently. But is it always?

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