DALLAS, Texas — National Football League Referees Association members voted overwhelmingly on Saturday to approve a new eight-year deal with the league to officially end a lockout that began in June.
The union's executive committee struck a deal with the NFL on Wednesday night, about 48 hours after a botched call by replacement referees on the game's final play denied Green Bay what should have been a victory at Seattle.
US President Barack Obama was among those who called for an end to the dispute after that blunder and negotiations sped to a finish in time for regular referees to officiate Baltimore's home victory over Cleveland on Thursday.
Money issues prompted the shutdown and led to the league pulling replacement referees from the high school and college ranks, but the newcomers struggled to cope with the increased speed and physicality of the professional level.
Spectators gave the regular referees a standing ovation when they first walked onto the field for the game in Baltimore, although it was less than four minutes into the game before a call against the home side brought a chorus of boos from the same group.
The NFL plans to pay 112 replacement officials $3,000 to $3,500 for the games they would have worked this weekend, even though the regular referees will be back at work in every NFL stadium.
[Image via Thinh Nguyen, Creative Commons licensed]