The good news for the NFL is that the debate regarding replacement officials will soon move on from the question of whether Hall of Fame game referee Craig Ochoa was fired by the Lingerie Football League.
The bad news is that the league will be dealing with another replacement official’s recent past as a high-stakes poker player.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the locked-out officials will soon be making it known that Shannon Eastin, who will become the first female official to work an NFL game, has played in the World Series of Poker.
Multiple links containing reports from the 2007 event mention Eastin.
At a time when the league is suing New Jersey to prevent gambling on NFL games, and in light of the league’s staunch opposition to gambling in most forms (except the ones that the owners are allowed to engage in, or those from which the league can make money, like scratch-and-lose tickets), the league office either didn’t know about Eastin’s poker playing or opted to make an exception given the need for replacement officials.
Some may regard the coming assault from the locked-out officials as an attack on Eastin’s gender. It’s a far deeper problem than that, in our view. The league has strong views on gambling, and the last persons associated with pro football who should have any connection to gambling are the game officials.
We’re not saying that Shannon Eastin will be the next Tim Donaghy. We’re saying that, if the standards for screening replacement officials are sufficiently lax to let a former contestant in the World Series of Poker get through the filter, perhaps one of the other 119 replacement officials will be the next Tim Donaghy.
UPDATE 11:00 p.m. ET: We’ve tracked down the rules regarding gambling by game officials.