The NFL's current selection of replacement referees has faced a bevvy of questions surrounding their on-field decision making, but what about behind the scenes?
The recent discovery of a New Orleans Saints fan, Brian Stropolo, almost being allowed to officiate a game between the Saints and the Carolina Panthers raises a serious question:
Is the NFL doing enough background search on replacement referees?
After all, it's not as if the NFL discovered Stropolo's allegiances on its own; ESPN.com made the league aware of his bias after viewing his Facebook page.
Yes, apparently the NFL is not even doing the same basic social media checks that almost every other business in the country does before hiring a prospective employee.
“The NFL does extensive background checks on prospective officials, including the current group of replacement officials,” NFL spokesman Michael Signora said, per Pro Football Talk.
Really, Mr. Signora?
Then how did such a clear Saints fan almost make it to the sidelines for his favorite team's Week 2 game?
When Stropolo posted a status on Facebook saying he would work the Saints/Panthers game, comments on the post included the following:
"That's awesome you get to be an official for a Saints game! I didn't think they would let you since your (sic) from Louisiana."
and also, "Hey, now be nice with those yellow flags for our Saints!!"
The seriousness of this issue cannot be overstated, and CBSSports.com NFL Insider Mike Freeman has even tweeted the following:
I'm told there may be other refs with Facebook pictures and posts showing they are fans of various teams...
— mike freeman (@realfreemancbs) September 16, 2012
And he is not the only media personality weighing in on the matter, ESPN.com writer Jemele Hill had this to say:
That replacement ref might was probably going to show up to today's game w/ a Drew Brees jersey.
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) September 16, 2012
The pressure surrounding the NFL's selection of replacement referees has already been too severe to withstand an assault on their background.
However, the first female referee, Shannon Eastin, while having passed her background check, has a history of gambling and has participated in the World Series of Poker.
Another replacement referee, Wayne Bernier's experience revolves around six-man football, and he officiated a six-man high school game the week before working a contest between the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Jets in the preseason.
Another unnamed official has previously worked in the Lingerie Football League.
The NFL better hope the replacement referees on-field performance continues to improve; otherwise the murmurs about their private transgressions will only grow louder.
And the process by which background checks take place will be more heavily scrutinized.
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