The National Football League says nine former on-field officials have not been fired from part-time jobs.
Former NFL referee Jerry Markbreit said Friday that he and eight other retired officials were asked to hand in their NFL-issued laptops and had been fired. The league wanted the nine men to train replacement officials after the league locked out the current officials.
The NFL says in a statement that the nine "are seasonal employees who have decided not to work at this time. We asked for their NFL-issued laptops back so that those who are working right now can use them."
The other eight ex-officials are Ron Botchan, Red Cashion, Tom Fincken, Dean Look, Ben Montgomery, Jim Quirk, Bill Schmitz, and Sid Semon.
The regular officials' contract ran out on May 31, and the NFL has been lining up replacements.
The players were locked out for 4 1/2 months last year before getting a 10-year contract.
"Lockout seems to be their negotiating strategy with everyone," said referee Scott Green, president of the NFL Referees Association, of which Markbreit and the eight other officials are not members. "We don't want to be locked out. We want to get back to the table and get this resolved."
The league responded Wednesday that it began the process of hiring replacements when the officials told the NFL of their intention to authorize a strike.
"We have great respect for our officials and in keeping with that view have made a proposal that includes substantial increases in compensation for all game officials," that previous NFL statement said. "We have negotiated in good faith since last October. We accepted the union's suggestion that we involve federal mediators in the negotiations.
"We are available to meet with the NFLRA at any time to negotiate a new contract."
No talks are scheduled.