Ryan and Walker call for return of union NFL refs
Update (below): Walker insists he’s not anti-union
A blown call in a National Football League game prompted both Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to demand the return of the league’s unionized referees, despite both lawmakers’ past anti-union efforts.
In video from a campaign appearance uploaded onto YouTube by Think Progress, Ryan, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, looks down at what appear to be prepared remarks before asking the crowd, “Did you guys watch that Packer game last night? I mean, ha. Give me a break. It is time to get the real refs.”
Both Ryan and Walker — who admitted to attempting to “divide and conquer” unions last year with legislation gutting collective bargaining rules — joined the wave of discontent against the NFL’s use of replacement referees after the Green Bay Packers’ loss against Seattle Monday night. Think Progress also reported that Walker said on Twitter Tuesday, “After catching an hour of sleep, the #Packers game is still just as faithful. #returntherealrefs.”
Last year, Ryan criticized protests against Walker’s law in the state capitol, saying, “It’s like Cairo has come to Madison,” in an attempt to liken them to the demonstrations that eventually deposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
The law was struck down by a Dane County Circuit Court Judge earlier this month.
The league has used replacement officials since locking out the NFL Referees Association (NFLRA) in June. Negotiations between the league and the union ended earlier this month without a new labor agreement. Monday night’s game has only renewed criticism against the league, with several columnists calling for the league to negotiate a settlement with the regular officials.
“They call for fumbles on plays in which a guy’s entire body was down on the ground and then whistle plays dead on clean strips,” Bill Barnwell wrote at Grantland.com. “They incorrectly award touchdowns and interpret pylon rules on plays that are directly in front of them. It’s a miracle that we don’t see more accidental ’12 men on the field’ penalties, because it seems generous to assume they can count all the way up to 12.”
According to the Associated Press, the political discontent is bipartisan; state Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D) said that regardless of political affiliation, “we’re all fans, first and foremost.”
Erpenbach, one of 14 Democratic state senators who fled the state capital in an attempt to stop the law from taking effect, said, “If you were born and raised in Wisconsin, you were raised on the Packers.”
The New York Daily News reported that Erpenpach also posted NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s office phone number on Twitter and asked encouraged fans to complain directly to him.
The AP also reported that the president of the New Jersey state senate, Steve Sweeney (D), has introduced legislation banning replacement officials in any sport from working in games there.
Update: Walker insists he’s not anti-union
Adding to his comments about unionized NFL referees, Gov. Walker said Tuesday on Twitter that his opposition to public sector unions “doesn’t make me anti-union.”
“Besides, private sector unions are often our partners in economic development,” he added.
Walker has used that line repeatedly in political showdowns with unions, defending himself against critics who say he’s pursuing an anti-union strategy with the goal of making Wisconsin a so-called “right to work” state that prohibits unions from compelling workers to pay dues.
Unfortunately for Walker, he undermined that defense and confirmed the unions’ fears earlier this year when he was caught on tape telling a billionaire donor that he would pursue “right to work” laws after the public sector unions were dealt with through “divide and conquer” tactics.
Video of Ryan’s remarks, posted Tuesday by Think Progress, can be seen below.