NFL referees' union rejects league's latest contract offer; replacements to open 2001 season

Thursday, September 6th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ The NFL referees' union rejected the league's latest contract offer Thursday, leaving replacement officials to work the opening weekend of the regular season.

``We are disappointed but we are ready to go with our new officials,'' NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said.

The NFL starts its season Sunday. Replacement officials already officiated at the final preseason game and have been guaranteed three more games at $2,000 per game.

Tom Condon, head of the NFL Referees' Association, did not immediately return telephone messages left by The Associated Press.

The officials, who are part-time employees, say they want to receive close to the salary made by officials in the other three major team sports. The NFL counters that it pays more per game than any of the three _ its 16-game season is far shorter than the 80 to 162 games in the others.

The league on Wednesday offered the referees a 60 percent raise in the first year of the contract. Their salaries would have doubled by 2003.

Salaries last season ranged from $42,295 for fifth-year officials to $82,390 for those entering their 21st season.

The union is asking that a fifth-year official be paid $95,000 per season starting this year, up to $210,000 for those with 20 years or more on the job.

The referees have been without a contract since March.