NEW YORK (AP) — The NFL players' union sent an open letter to team owners calling for an end to the lockout of on-field officials and hinting that it's a violation of the contract between the players and the league.
The players were locked out for 4½ months last year, and they emphasized in the letter, posted Sunday on the union's website, that a lack of a safe working environment exists with replacement officials working the games.
Domonique Foxworth, president of the NFL Players Association, Drew Brees and Scott Fujita are among the union members who signed it.
"Your decision to lock out officials with more than 1,500 years of collective NFL experience has led to a deterioration of order, safety and integrity," the NFL Players Association wrote. "This affirmative decision has not only resulted in poor calls, missed calls and bad game management, but the combination of those deficiencies will only continue to jeopardize player health and safety and the integrity of the game that has taken decades to build."
The NFL did not respond to a request from The Associated Press for comment.
In the letter signed by 12 current or former players, the players also ask why Commissioner Roger Goodell issues suspensions and fines "in the name of player health and safety" while the regular officials the league entrusts to maintain health and safety are locked out.
"As players, we see this game as more than the 'product' you reference at times," the letter said. "You cannot simply switch to a group of cheaper officials and fulfill your legal, moral, and duty obligations to us and our fans. You need to end the lockout and bring back the officials immediately."
The NFL locked out the officials in June after their contact expired. It has used replacements for the first time since 2001, when the regular officials missed only the first week of action.