NEW YORK (CBS SPORTS) – While fans and reporters have been extra-vigilant about reporting how badly the replacement officials have fared, the NFLPA is trying to help the regular referees in their public relations battle with the league.

“The NFL Players Association Executive Committee is calling on you to end the lockout of our referees,” the union wrote in a letter released Sunday morning. “We believe there is substantial evidence that you have failed in your obligation to provide as safe a working environment as possible.”

Mostly, the NFLPA said that it is concerned about player safety, and that the use of replacement refs who don’t have experience officiating the game at this level has “led to a deterioration of order, safety and integrity.”

From a public relations view, the NFL wasn’t helped by the revelation last week that one official slated to work the Saints-Panthers game had posted multiple pictures of himself in Saints gear on his Facebook page. And it hasn’t been helped by the numerous mistakes that TV announcers and players gleefully have pointed out during and after games.

So far, it doesn’t appear as if the replacements’ struggles have compelled the NFL and the regular officials to make any progress toward a new deal. Thus, the NFLPA is now making its voice heard.

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