So, what’s the big deal? A couple of referees talking to an NFL player. Asking or not asking for an autograph. Appearance of impropriety seems a pretty weak charge.
The National Football League is pretty bullet proof. But the one area of constant concern is its credibility. And that starts with the referees. The specter of Tim Donaghy still looms over professional sports. Donaghy is the former NBA referee who was caught fixing games. We all still know his name and he served eleven months in a federal prison.
When the Rochester RazorSharks were in their heyday as a professional minor league basketball franchise, the team would customarily host a postgame party. And that day’s referees were invited and invariably attended. Now I get that in such a low budget operation as the Premier Basketball League, a free meal is more than appreciated, and maybe it happened in other cities too. But it was a terrible look. Terrible. Unjustifiable. Because as the saying goes, when you feed the dog, you own the dog.
The NFL is reviewing the incident involving side judge Jeff Lamberth and line judge Tripp Sutter, I’m told.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) October 24, 2022
The NFL-NFLRA CBA specifically says game officials “shall not… ask players, coaches or any other team personnel for autographs or memorabilia.” pic.twitter.com/2suFfK3MWL
There is inherent bias in the press box too. Professional teams provide the means to cover their teams and treat the media pretty well. They feed us. Detect a trend? These teams expect as a result, a softer journalistic approach. Maybe you let some things slide. It’s a moral dilemma we’ve generally decided to live with. But once upon a time, the Boston Globe insisted on paying for its press box seat at Fenway Park to cover the Red Sox. Score one for the high road.So, while it may seem like a couple of referees chatting up a player after an NFL game is a non-issue, it’s not. Because on and off the field, perception is reality.