The NFL is looking into an alleged autograph interaction between two umpires and Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans, a league source told Yahoo Sports. The exchange was captured on video by a Carolina Panthers beat writer and posted on Twitter following the game.
In the two interactions on a separate pair of videos, referees Tripp Sutter and Jeff Lamberth can be seen handing Evans a piece of paper and a writing utensil, at which point each stands individually as Evans seems write something before returning the paper. for them. It was filmed by beaten Panthers writer Sheena Quick, who posted each on her Twitter account following the Panthers’ 21-3 victory over the Buccaneers.
The collective agreement contains a provision between the NFL and the NFL Referees Association that regulates the conduct of officials and prohibits them from “directly requesting[ing] players, coaches or any other team personnel for autographs or memorabilia. However, officials may request autographs with direct requests through the league’s referee department.
It is not known what Evans wrote on the paper given to him. Lamberth could be heard calling Evans on video, with Sutter then handing the receiver a piece of paper and a writing utensil. Quick posted a second video where a referee waited while Evans wrote on something in his hands.
A league source with decades of experience as an NFL player and a longtime executive told Yahoo Sports he was not aware of anything a player would be required to sign for officials. in a post-game tunnel or elsewhere.
“I don’t think it’s procedural,” the source said. “…I don’t know of a situation where Mike Evans should sign something.”
As the video made the rounds of the NFL on Monday, it drew verbal groans from some team executives and coaches who had shared the tweets and video with them. All agreed that the interaction was not a normal occurrence in a post-match tunnel between a player and officials.
“Bad looking,” said an AFC chief executive. “I have never seen that.”
“Never [seen that] in all my years in the league,” said an NFC general manager.
The grumbles were more emotional than anyone calling for a legitimate integrity issue, with a few executives also expressing that they don’t see it as a big deal. But most agreed that for a league always concerned with optics – and certainly concerned with how officiating is perceived – the interaction could have been handled better, whether it was a request for autograph or anything else.
A report from Football Zebras, a media outlet with a long and detailed track record of covering NFL officials, released a response from a source familiar with the league’s investigation on Monday who claimed Evans had not been invited to an autograph. The source declined to say what Evans was writing or why he was asked to write it.
“The optics are obviously not good,” the source told Football Zebras. “The league has pictures of the card. I let them say what they want about their investigation. Lamberth didn’t have an autograph. Sutter is completely innocent, simply doing as asked of him by a teammate, without fully understanding what was going on.
According to the site, the source said Evans signs a card that game officials use to track various points of information, including timeouts, game captains, fouls and other data. But the site said it was irregular for Evans to sign such a card.
“There is no routine that requires Evans, as team captain, to sign or complete anything for the officials,” the report said. “If there is a legitimate purpose to obtain information from Evans – such as contact details for a charity event in the offseason, hypothetically – that is best handled by the referee department and team officials. .”
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