WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Scott Green, the head of the National Football League referees’ union, said on Thursday sealing a deal to end a labor dispute with the NFL this week felt like officiating a Super Bowl game.
The Washington law enforcement consultant and one-time lobbyist is among the NFL’s most accomplished referees - experience that helped in hammering out a deal to end the lock out.
“It was an intense process,” Green, 61, said in an interview on Thursday, after clinching the deal late on Wednesday. “We’ve been locked out for 115 days. There were a lot of issues and we just continued to push through.”
The eight-year agreement includes some hard-fought gains for the union - including an increase in pay from an average of $149,000 in 2011 to $173,000 in 2013 - and marks a highlight in the career of Green.
“It was not a whole lot unlike working a game,” he said. “I’ve worked three Super Bowls, and I would compare it to that end of the game feeling, when you walk up the field with your head held high and you know you did a good job.”
When not leading union negotiations or officiating games, Green is an executive at the law enforcement lobbying and consulting firm in Vienna, Virginia, that he founded with business partner Charles DeWitt in 1994.
The firm, Lafayette, has done studies for federal, state and local agencies, including the New Jersey State Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Its main lobbying client is the Major Cities Chiefs Association, with income of $20,000 this year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a watchdog group.
“Scott is bright, very capable pro,” said Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, who has worked closely with Green in his role as president of the association. “He can handle pressure very well. He’s certainly not one to buckle under pressure.”
Green, who said he hasn’t been formally registered as a lobbyist in four or five years, previously worked as an adviser to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and is a 1973 graduate of the University of Delaware with a degree in criminal justice.
He said his work in Washington helped prepare him for the painstaking labor negotiations.
“You’ve got to be willing to swap and compromise, you’ve got to go back through line by line, and double check everything and figure out where your support is, where you reach compromises,” said the father of four.
A Pennsylvania native who played high school football, Green began as an NFL field judge in 1991 and later became a back judge. He officiated at Super Bowl games in 2002 and 2004 and refereed the 2010 Super Bowl.
Like all referees who call games for a period of time, Green has faced second guessing, although nothing like the uproar over some of the blown calls by the replacement referees this season, including the one that gave the Seattle Seahawks a victory over the Green Bay Packers on Monday.
Green said the disputed call in Monday’s game - which became the subject of national news headlines and comedy sketches - gave fresh impetus to the contract talks.
“If you were filling up a bucket, that might have been the drop that tipped the bucket over,” he said.
Green himself drew criticism from then-NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue in 2003 when he failed to call pass interference on the San Francisco 49ers during a playoff game with the New York Giants, Sports Illustrated magazine reported.
He instead penalized New York for having an ineligible player downfield on the play.
Green was also involved in a disputed finish at a 2008 game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and San Diego Chargers. As the Chargers tried to lateral the ball downfield a Steeler batted it away and carried it into the end zone for a touchdown.
Green and his crew ruled a lateral an illegal forward pass, negating the Steelers’ score. He later conceded he and the other officials had made a wrong call, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
Jim Tunney, former president of the referee’s association, declined to comment on any of Green’s more memorable calls, but said in an interview that there was more to refereeing than any single decision. “I hope you don’t go back over my 31 years and track my record, too,” he said.
Additional reporting by Chris Francescani; Editing by Paul Thomasch and Claudia Parsons