When it comes to pro football, the usual rules of politics apparently take a time-out.
When a controversial call by a replacement referee led to a Green Bay Packers loss on Monday night, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, called for the return of the NFL's regular unionized officials, who have been locked out by the league's owners.
"After catching a few hours of sleep, the #Packers game is still just as painful. #Returntherealrefs," Walker wrote on Twitter early Tuesday.
The statement raised more than a few eyebrows because Walker made national headlines last year when he pushed to strip Wisconsin's public employees of their collective bargaining rights.
But he sounded less enthusiastic about the outcome of the NFL's hard-line stance against its unionized workers.
"I don't think this has anything to do with unions, but has everything to do with refs making bad calls," Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie later told Sports Illustrated.
In many ways, however, the referee feud is fairly representative of modern labor battles playing out in Wisconsin and elsewhere.
In the NFL dispute, one of the biggest sticking points, as Dave Jamieson explains, involves pensions.
The league wants to replace the defined-benefit pensions for referees that have been in place since the 1970s with riskier and stingier 401(k)s. The referees, by contrast, point out that the NFL hauls in $9 billion per year and can afford to provide generous retirement packages.
That echoes the growing number of fights between unions and private companies in recent years over retirement plans. Many large U.S. corporations are looking to shed their expensive defined-benefit pensions in favor of defined-contribution 401(k)s.
General Motors, Verizon, and American Airlines have all pushed to freeze their defined-benefit plans over the past few years, often tussling with unions in the process.
Typically, the freeze means that employees within the plan no longer accrue further benefits, while new workers are barred from joining altogether.
Those disputes can turn ugly.