Officiating In Perspective with Barry Mano

Officiating In Perspective with Barry Mano

Walking That Fine Picket Line

Almost 50 years ago I was sitting in a hotel ballroom in Tulsa with 30 or 40 other basketball officials. We were at the preseason clinic for a D-I college conference we worked in. It was, for the most of us, our primary conference. That particular meeting, that particular morning has never left me.

The commissioner had come into the room to welcome us to the upcoming season. He then asked us to introduce ourselves. One by one we did just that. When it was my turn, I simply stated my name and the town I lived in: Franksville, Wis. Just as I finished my words, the commissioner loudly added: “And he is the publisher of Referee magazine and the president of the new National Association of Sports Officials (NASO).” I cringed, wanting to keep my personal and professional officiating lives as separated as possible. Guess I was damned naïve.

But here is what I remember most about that meeting. The supervisor of officials had received from our group, prior to the meeting, a request having to do with increasing game fees and expense reimbursements. He was a former renowned collegiate basketball and football official, so we felt we might get a sympathetic ear. Well, we guessed wrong!

After the commissioner left the room, our supervisor took the floor. He went over a number of mundane matters and then chose to address our typewritten request, which he held in his hand. The short answer to the things we requested was a resounding “No!!!” Then he looked around the room and for the second time that morning, I experienced something I still have not forgotten to this day. He looked at us and said: “If any of you don’t like it, there will be someone else sitting in your seat next season.” And, that is a quote, one that I obviously have never forgotten.

The end result of those “negotiations” was that we worked for the same game fees and expenses not only for that season but for the next two seasons because our association of conference officials didn’t have the bravery and the guts to make anything else happen. That burned me and most of us. I have had a particular interest in the size and manner of our compensation ever since. I watch with intense interest anytime a group of officials withholds services, or walks a picket line in hopes of improving their conditions. In my heart-of-hearts, I am standing with them.

The decades since have whisked by and here we are: Referee and NASO considered to be the leading advocates on behalf of sports officials. The magazine is the journal-of-record for officiating. NASO is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit educational association. What it does not do is involve itself in matters of labor negotiations and employee rights. NASO cannot go there, by its charter.

There are those who believe this magazine and NASO are not doing enough to support the unions of sports officials that exist, mostly at the professional levels. They believe the magazine should never even show a single picture of a a replacement official, or publish a news story or journal piece about the replacements hired. Any story in this magazine should be about the union and what it is striving for, with no reporting on what the counter-positions are by the league or conference.

Let me reiterate: the magazine is here to advocate sports officiating and to support officials within the guardrails of responsible, in-depth and balanced reporting. That means there will be those times when a story/news item needs to vet the issues and the responses from all parties. That is our journalistic duty. Yet never forget where our hearts truly are … with those officials who are standing up for better treatment and more respect.

Referee Magazine Publisher, Barry Mano’s latest Publisher’s Memo. Found in the May, 2024 issue of Referee magazine. For more information or to subscribe to Referee magazine, visit

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