Green Bay vs Seattle Touchdown Scandal: Why the NFL Referee Union Has An Unlikely Ally in Wisconsin Gov Scott Walker

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker finally found a union he doesn’t want to bust: the NFL Referees Union.

Fans, players, and just about anyone who saw the controversial ending to Monday night’s Green Bay Packers-Seattle Seahawks game came out in opposition to the NFL continuing its use of replacement referees, including a tweet by Gov. Walker – who has a history of blowing off unions in negotiations. 


Despite the temptation to rush to call him a fraud, here’s why the he isn’t.

When Walker squared off against teachers and government employees unions after taking office in 2011, protests at the state capitol and state lawmakers fleeing to neighboring Illinois to avoid voting on the budget made international headlines. This, because the governor banned public unions from collective bargaining while mandating teachers and other government employees make larger contributions out of their paychecks towards pensions and health care costs.

Sound familiar? It is, but it also isn’t.

The NFL owners mainly disagree with the referees over pension costs as well. Instead of the referees going on strike, they were locked out. Where Walker never told union employees they couldn't go back to work if they wanted to, NFL referees aren’t allowed to go back to being booed at by fans.

Also, what sets the NFL apart from the state of Wisconsin, is that sports unions are different than other labor unions. That Walker wanted to slash costs in his state by taking more money from unions and wants the owners to cave so replacement referees can go back to rooting for their favorite teams, playing fantasy football, and being fired by the Lingerie Football League is not a big surprise.

Wisconsin state senator Joe Erpenbach, a Walker foe who fled to Illinois last year and fellow Packers fan, told the AP he wasn't surprised Walker supported the referees, adding "we're all fans, first and foremost ... If you were born and raised in Wisconsin, you were raised on the Packers." 

Walker knows, just as we all do, that owners will not go broke over the relatively small piece of the pie they pay to the refs. He also knew that without serious pension and health care reform that Wisconsin could very well have gone broke. Walker made tough decisions, but he did what he believed what was in the best interest of all Wisconsinites. 

Tweeting to #Returntherealrefs is taking solidarity with his constituents in protesting a greedy oligarchy that wants to benefit themselves, not fans of the sport they control.

For the record, the Packers were screwed.

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Ryan Gorman

Ryan's work has been featured in the NY Daily News, Gothamist and the Wall Street Letter. His work has been cited by both the Colbert Report and Time Magazine's website. Ryan worked on Wall Street for five years before returning to school to finish a degree in journalism at St. John's University.

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