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NFL, referees agree on opt-out deal for 2020 season

Matt Johnson
New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees and an NFL referee
Chuck Cook -USA TODAY Sports

The NFL saw The NFL and the NFL Referees Association have reached an agreement on a deal that will provide all officials with an opt-out clause and compensation for the 2020 NFL season.

Just days after the NFL’s opt-out deadline for players passed, with 69 players choosing to sit out the upcoming season, the league has now provided a similar safety option for its referees.

NFL to compensate referees who opt-out of 2020 season

Not only will more than 1,000 players be risking their health this season by playing amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but many officials will also be taking that gamble this fall. As a result, the NFL and NFLRA have agreed to a compensation plan for the 2020 season.

Under the deal, which both sides finalized on Sunday, any referee who opts out of the 2020 NFL season will receive $30,000 this year and be guaranteed employment in 2021.

The NFL also agreed to provide its officials with compensation if they contract the coronavirus during the 2020 season. Under the league’s rule, any official who tests positive for COVID-19 during the regular season or playoffs will be entitled to injury pay, medical expenses and benefits.

As part of the agreement, the NFL will test its game officials twice per week for the virus. In an additional step to increase safety, referees are expected to wear masks and use electronic whistles this season.

Before the agreement, several refs were considering not working this year due to the pandemic. The creation of the opt-out clause is even more notable given the majority of refs are in the high-risk group for COVID-19 symptoms due to their average age.

Major League Baseball saw a significant number of its umpires sit out this season due to the health crisis. By Aug. 13, we will know just how many officials the NFL will not have available this year.