NFL Reaches Labor Deal With Refs [Sports]

NyTimes — The NFL reached agreement on an eight-year labor deal with its game officials late Wednesday night, effectively ending a lockout that forced unprepared replacement officials onto the field, creating three weeks of botched calls, acute criticism, furious coaches and players, and a blemish on the integrity of the country’s most popular sport.

The agreement, which was being put in writing late Wednesday night, came 48 hours after the nadir of the league’s experiment with replacement officials, when an incorrect call on the final play of the Monday night game cost the Green Bay Packers a victory against the Seattle Seahawks.

That nationally televised debacle spurred two days of intense and lengthy negotiations against the backdrop of immense public pressure and scorn, most of it directed at the league. Both sides were so determined to play no more games with replacements that they raced Wednesday night to get officials in place to work this week’s slate of games.

Commissioner Roger Goodell is temporarily lifting the lockout so a crew of regular officials can work the Ravens’ game against the Cleveland Browns in Baltimore on Thursday night. The members of the officials’ union will then gather in Dallas on Saturday and are expected to vote to ratify the contract, with regular officials expected to then work Sunday’s games.

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