NFL investigates video of game official apparently seeking autograph from Mike Evans

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Carolina Panthers

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The tinfoil hat crowd may be needing a tinfoil refill.

A video has emerged from Sunday of a couple of game officials who appeared to be seeking an autograph from Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans. They were, according to, side judge Jeff Lamberth and line judge Tripp Sutter.

The NFL had no official comment on the matter. Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the league is looking into the incident.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement that controls the relationship between the NFL and the NFL Referees Association has a specific provision regarding game tickets, merchandise, and memorabilia.

“Game Officials must even avoid the appearance of profiting or personally benefiting from their association with the NFL, other than from compensation provided under the NFLRA Collective Bargaining Agreement,” the CBA explains at Appendix E, Section IV. “NFL Game Officials are permitted to receive compensation for speaking engagements or for participating in officiating clinics as long as these activities do not conflict with Article 22 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. In addition to the prohibitions set forth in Appendix E, Section I A above, Game Officials shall not . . . sell or trade NFL tickets for anything of greater value than the face value of the tickets; or . . .  sell or trade for anything of value NFL merchandise, autographs or memorabilia; or . . . ask players, coaches or any other team personnel for autographs or memorabilia.”

The CBA allows game officials to “obtain player autographs or team merchandise or memorabilia for personal or charitable purposes.” Requests for such materials “should be made through the Officiating Department and never to a player or team employee directly.”

Maybe there’s a good explanation for this. Maybe there isn’t. Regardless, it’s the kind of thing that undermines the integrity of officiating. At a time when the officials already are under scrutiny from fans who wonder whether the process of making calls and throwing (or not throwing) flags has become potentially influenced by gambling interests, the video that emerged on Sunday will do little to diminish concerns that the fix from time to time may be in.

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