Monday, September 21, 2009

Locked-Out Wife: Stern Doesn't Appreciate NBA Referees

Locked-Out Wife: Stern Doesn't Appreciate NBA Referees

After failing to negotiate a new contract with the referees union, the NBA locked out its officials Friday and began making plans to start the season with a group of replacement referees.

The league has been asking for significant concessions from the union, most notably a reduction in pension benefits. The league has said that it wants the union to accept a deal that is more in line with the compensation awarded its office employees and administrative staff.

In responses to the league's demands, Julie Davis, the wife of veteran NBA official Marc Davis, wrote this letter to the National Basketball Referees Association executive board to provide a family's perspective.

FanHouse obtained a copy of the letter from the NBRA.

"These past few weeks have been a very trying time for our family, as I am sure they have been for the families for all of the 57 NBA referees. The stress of worrying about a lockout has been, at times, overwhelming. We have three small children to feed, clothe, and educate. Like most American families, we have a mortgage and bills to pay. These bills do not know what the word "lockout" means.

"What has been most disheartening, however, is accepting the fact that the sacrifices that all of our families make year in and year out appear to be meaningless to the NBA and David Stern. The 'offers' made by the NBA are insulting to our families.

"The NBA has repeatedly stated that their goal this year is to bring the referees compensation and benefits more in line with the rest of the NBA office employees and its administrative staff. But referees are not office and administrative staff. They do not wake up at home each morning and see their kids off to school before heading to a job from which they get to return home each night, if not for dinner, then to tuck their kids in and kiss them good night. They do not get to sleep in their own beds with their spouses by their sides.

"While I don't know for certain, I would guess that most of the NBA office employees do not miss their kid's school plays, parent-teacher conferences, sports practices and games, graduations, Christmas mornings, and other holidays. Their husbands and wives do not have to explain to their children each morning and night for 10 months of the year that daddy or mommy will not be coming home again today and won't be home again for the next ten days either. I can tell you from first-hand experience that three, four and five year olds do not get that concept very well. All of this is not to diminish the value of the NBA office and administrative staff. They obviously play a crucial role in the day-to-day workings of the League. But in reality the jobs of an office worker and an NBA referee are not the same. Comparing the two is not comparing apples to apples, but instead it is trying to make an apple an orange.

"By even making the comparison in the first place, David Stern runs the risk of changing a 'craft' into a job. Though the NBA office staff is some of the best in the world, you can find anyone to do a job, not everyone is a true craftsman. The men and women who work this job are true craftsmen. Though frequently criticized by fans and the media, they are the best in the world at what they do and I am proud to be the wife of one. They cannot be replaced by placing an ad in the classifieds and picking out a new hire from the folks who line up at the door. If they could, then perhaps the deal the NBA is offering makes sense.

"It does not, however, make sense given the sacrifices our families make every day. I would even go so far as to say that the sacrifice we make is larger than that that made of anyone in the NBA, including the players. Whatever the public perception may be, the referees do not have huge contracts, fly on private planes, or get to work half of their games at home. They are regular people, who trek around from city to city, airport to airport, arena to arena, and practice their craft to provide for their families.

"In any given season, we are lucky if my husband works three home games in a 75-game schedule. We are lucky if he is home more than five 24-hour periods a month. Who else on the NBA staff can say they do the same? Players can't. David Stern can't. Office staff can't, nor can anyone else who works for the NBA. Referees are unique in what they give to and what they give up for the game.

"And so what are all of these sacrifices for? Why are we missing holidays together and games and school events? So that the NBA can tell all of us that our sacrifice is meaningless and that it is worth no more to them than what the office worker, who jumps on and off the train, each day does? That seems ludicrous by any rational measure.

"It was not my dream to be an NBA referee. It was not our kid's dream to have a father who is one either. But it is a dream we are fully committed to supporting because it is my husband's dream. I take on single parenthood and being a 'referee widow' because I love my husband and believe in him and his dream. All that has happened with this contract just has me questioning whether the NBA realizes the sacrifices 57 families of their employees make to continue to put out the 'best product in the world.'"

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