At one point, days before the player opt-out deadline, some in league circles believed the eventual number would land in the single digits. It didn’t, with nearly 70 taking the season off due to the pandemic.
Today, officials must make the decision to stay or go, with a $30,000 non-refundable payment available to any who choose to step aside.
So how many will opt out? One source with knowledge of the inner workings of the officiating industry recently suggested that, eventually, fewer than 10 will opt out, but that the list may include a couple of significant veteran names. However, there has been no talk yet of any of the referees — the leaders of the various crews — opting out.
It surely is a tempting prospect, given that officials usually have other jobs and usually are older and may have health issues that make them susceptible to a bad COVID-19 outcome. Still, some have to be at least somewhat concerned that, despite guaranteed jobs for 2021, they’ll be viewed differently if they ditch their posts, especially in comparison to those who stay.
Either way, we’ll know more (or at least the league will) later today.