NFL to review officials appearing to ask Bucs player for autograph
The NFL will review an incident from Sunday when a pair of officials were caught on camera apparently asking Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans for an autograph following Tampa Bay’s game against the Carolina Panthers.
Following Carolina’s 21-3 victory at home during Week 7, as Buccaneers players headed through the tunnel just after the game ended, reporter Sheena Quick filmed a moment when side judge Jeff Lamberth and line judge Tripp Sutter stopped Evans as he was headed toward the locker room. One of the officials can be heard calling to Evans, who turns around. Lamberth appears to grab a pen and something to write on from Sutter before handing it to Evans, who then appears to write on it.
NFL senior vice president of football and international communications Michael Signora confirmed the review to USA TODAY Sports in an email. NFL Network was the first to report the news.
According to the seven-year collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFL Referees Association that was ratified Sept. 28, 2019, members of an officiating crew “shall not… ask players, coaches or any other team personnel for autographs or memorabilia.”
That language appears in Appendix E, Section IV of the document, which states that “Game Officials must even avoid the appearance of profiting or personally benefitting from their association with the NFL, other than from compensation provided under the NFLRA Collective Bargaining Agreement.”
Follow every game: Live NFL Scores
The CBA does allow for officials to obtain player autographs or team memorabilia or merchandise “for personal or charitable purposes” but mandates that those requests go through the league’s officiating department “and never to a player or team employee directly.”
Per Pro Football Reference, Lamberth has been an official for 20 seasons, starting in 2002, though he was not active for the 2011 season. Sutter is in his fourth season as an official and has been with the league since 2019.
A message sent to the NFL Referees Association requesting comment was not immediately returned.
Evans caught nine passes for 96 yards in the game, but dropped what would’ve been a 64-yard touchdown in the first quarter when he was wide open but had the pass glance off his hands.