NFL to Pay Referees $30,000, Guarantee 2021 Job If They Opt Out Due to COVID-19

Jordan Cohn
August 09, 2020 - 4:09 pm

The NFL's opt-out deadline for players came and went this past week, with 60-some players deciding not to participate in the 2020 NFL season who will instead be rewarded with a $350,000 stipend (if they're deemed high-risk) or a $150,000 stipend (those who opted out voluntarily before the deadline).

Up next is the deadline for referees to opt out, which is set for Thursday, August 13. The NFL and the NFL Referee Association (NFLRA) came to an agreement regarding the protections officials are granted during the 2020 season and the terms of the opt-out program.

According to the NFLRA press release, those who voluntarily choose to opt out of the season will be given a $30,000 stipend (via Along with the stipend, their jobs will be guaranteed for the 2021 NFL season so that they may return to the game without conflict.

NFLRA Executive Director Scott Green said that the plan had been unanimously endorsed and shared his perspective over a video conference call, sharing that health and safety of the association's members was the top priority. He does not, however, discount the possibility of an official catching the virus, as the risk is not completely avoidable.

Extra protections will be granted in order to prepare for any positive tests. In the event of a positive coronavirus test, the affected referee is entitled to injury pay, medical expenses and other benefits in order to help them through the absence. Additionally, expenses related to appropriately dealing with the sick individual (travel, accommodations) will be covered by the league.

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk said that he has a feeling a "significant percentage" of referees will opt out due to numerous factors, including the health and safety issues at stake and the lack of a preseason and any preparation for the season. Additionally, Chris Simms mentions the concern of breaking up scrums, checking ball placement under piles, and other high-risk aspects of the game.

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