The NFL continues to tune out criticism of the replacement officials, but there’s one name that should be keeping V.P. of football operations Ray Anderson awake at night.
With the league assembling a full complement of eight-per-game replacement officials in only a matter of weeks, the normal vetting procedures clearly weren’t employed. Former V.P. of officiating Mike Pereira and former assistant supervisor of officials Jim Daopoulos have separately said that replacement official Shannon Eastin, a professional poker player, never would have secured approval to be a regular NFL official. Brian Stropolo, a rabid Saints fan who made that known on Facebook, was assigned to work the Saints-Panthers game on Sunday. Another official worked the Seahawks-Cardinals game in Week One, even though he has (or, more accurately, had) a separate financial arrangement with the Seahawks. And Eagles running back LeSean McCoy said Monday that a replacement official told him, “I need you for my fantasy team,” even though officials are forbidden from playing fantasy football.
If these obvious issues are falling through the cracks, what about the non-obvious issues?
With the replacement officials realizing that their assignments are short-term by nature (especially since the regular officials would never welcome in the future any of the “scabs” who percolate to the top of the profession), there’s a potential temptation to parlay the temporary assignment into a six-figure score.
Here’s how R.J. Bell of Pregame.com explains it: “Historically, the motivation for gambling corruption is financial gain. The deterrence is the consequence of being caught. In professional football, a large portion of that deterrence involves the potential loss of astronomical compensation (for players) or the loss of a long career of generous compensation (for union officials). Thus, for many decades, the economics of game corruption was unable to reasonably tempt any participant who could actually affect the game’s outcome.
“Replacement officials most certainly could affect the game’s outcome; at the same time, their expected career earnings in the NFL are quite modest (i.e., once the regular refs settle, they will stop making money from the NFL). Does this mean that any of the replacement officials are corrupt? Absolutely not. But it certainly deserves to be discussed that for the first time in the modern era of the NFL there are decision-makers on the field who could make more financially by fixing a game
than they would be risking financially if they were caught.”
Of course, they also would be risking jail. But that didn’t stop Donaghy, a 13-year NBA referee, from doing it. Besides, most of the folks in jail thought they’d get away with it (of course, they also continue to insist they didn’t do it, too).
Do we know any of the replacement officials are gambling on games or making calls that influence the outcome for betting purposes? No. But all it takes is one. And if the league’s background checks failed to catch some of the obvious problems that we now know about, it’s hard not to think about the stuff that a replacement official isn’t posting on his Facebook page.