In the wake of catching wind of the NFL Referees Association’s intent to make an issue out of the fact that replacement official Shannon Eastin has participated in the World Series of Poker, we decided to track down the specific rules that apply to game officials regarding gambling.
The prohibition against gambling appears in the expired Collective Bargaining Agreement, which the league has confirmed applies to the replacement officials.
“Gambling is an unacceptable activity for Game Officials in the National Football League,” the policy states. “Such activity constitutes conduct detrimental to the integrity of, and public trust in, the NFL. Because it is the responsibility of the Game Officials to ensure the fairness of NFL play, including the complete confidence of the fans in the legitimacy of the game, it is critical that NFL Game Officials maintain the appearance of the highest ethical conduct.”
As a result, officials are prohibited during the season (from the preseason through the Pro Bowl) to “enter a horse or dog race track or a gambling casino, or bet on any game, or any other sporting event.” Officials also are required to report to the league within 24 hours any entry into a horse or dog race track or casino during the offseason. Throughout the year, officials may not associate with gamblers.
The question with replacement officials is whether past gambling activities should disqualify them from consideration, and whether their inclusion in the pool of replacement officials in any way undermines the integrity and credibility of the pool of replacements.
It’s a question that the NFL Referees Association will soon be raising as it relates to Eastin.