The NFL is investigating two refs seen on video asking Mike Evans for an autograph after the Panthers-Buccaneers game on Sunday.
Most NFL actions can be explained by asking the simple question: what’s best for the shield? That’s why when (some) executives, all players, and anyone tangentially related to the league do anything to damage its reputation, the NFL tends to react forcefully.
This was apparent after the Carolina Panthers played the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A video was released appearing to show a pair of referees — Jeff Lamberth and Tripp Sutter — pulling Bucs receiver Mike Evans aside for autographs.
NFL refs under investigation for asking Bucs star Mike Evans for autograph
There’s little that’s sinister about asking a player for an autograph, though there’s always a fear that any sort of favoritism, quid-pro-quo, or betting arrangement could jeopardize the integrity of the game.
Take the Tim Donaghy example in the NBA. The league ultimately determined that it was an isolated incident, but initial reporting suggested that gambling among NBA refs was pervasive. Comparisons were easily made to the 1919 White Sox World Series scandal, an incident that nearly took down baseball.
There’s no sense in jumping to any conclusions here, as little is known about this case beyond the released video. But examples from other sports shows why it’s necessary for the NFL to institute firm rules to prevent even the appearance of impropriety — especially in an age when legalized sports betting has become the norm.
The NFL has opened an investigation into the incident because seeking autographs is specifically prohibited in the CBA, and the league has said it’ll take the matter seriously. Still, these refs will certainly be able to argue that they showed no favoritism toward Evans or the Bucs in calling the game.
The Panthers trounced Tom Brady and Tampa Bay, 21-3. And Mike Evans dropped a wide open pass early in the game. Dishonest refs might be able to covertly influence the game on the margins, but they can’t catch the ball.