The word “integrity” and phrase “integrity of the game” have been tossed around a lot recently concerning the NFL and their replacement officials.
ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported during Sunday NFL Countdown that ESPN had notified the NFL league office about replacement official, Brian Stropolo and pictures of him wearing Saints gear on his Facebook page.
Stropolo officiated the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants week one opener on national television, before photos of him appearing via social media revealed him to be an avid Saints fan living in the state of Louisiana.
The NFL has a lot of explaining to do considering how blatantly obvious and public these photos of Stropolo, donning a Saints hat and pullover in one image and another of him tailgating at a Saints preseason game on August 25th, actually were.
Stropolo was indeed scheduled to work as a side judge during the week two meeting between his beloved Saints and their NFC South rival Carolina Panthers. To make matters worse, Stropolo failed to tell the NFL of his allegiance to the Saints even after he was assigned the game. Leaving questions on the table as to if he planned to alter the outcome of the game on Sunday.
Thank goodness this major gaffe on the part of the NFL didn’t take place, but pulling Stropolo off game duty just hours before kick-off doesn’t make any of this better.
In fact, all NFL games through week two could and probably should be called into question. Who are these replacement officials and who do they root for? Both legitimate questions given the fact that these referees are policing world class athletes playing a game on a level they aren’t capable of officiating properly. Player safety is one issue, but this recent mishap should draw calls for the NFL to end their lockout with the regular officials.
In a report from USA Today, NFL executive vice president of football operations, Ray Anderson had this to say about the situation, “Obviously, we were not aware that he might be an avid Saints fan,” further adding, “Right now, we don’t have the luxury of time. This is also a reason why it makes sense for us to expand our pool of officials to include an alternate with every crew, so we were able to easily replace him.”
Anderson also stated that Stropolo would continue to officiate this season, but not referee Saints’ games.
This situation is beginning to become a joke; with players and coaches starting to wonder why its week two and replacement officials are still working games.
The NFL needs to go ahead and pull Stropolo from further games or at least make sure he doesn’t work any game that could potentially effect to the Saints.
The Panthers almost became a victim to what would have been the biggest castrophe in NFL history. The possible calamity didn’t thwart their plan and focus in week two though. The Panthers still came out and topped the Saints, 35-27.
However, the NFL needs to get to work and either resolve this lockout soon or dig deeper into who these replacement officials really are, before this situation gets out of hand.
Robert Kester, Carolina Panthers Columnist. Please follow @robertkester1