Detailed by ESPN this week, the National Football League pulled a side judge referee named Brian Stropolo hours before yesterday’s Carolina-New Orleans game after being informed of incriminating photos of Stropolo wearing New Orleans Saints gear on his personal Facebook page. Acting as a replacement referee while the NFL Referees Association is currently negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement, Stropolo had posted several pictures of himself wearing Saints branded clothing in addition to a photo of him tailgating at a Saints preseason game earlier this year.
Stropolo had already officiated the Week 1 game between the Cowboys and Giants and posted “Thanks to everyone for all the support. The crew did a great job tonight. Next stop September 16th at Carolina vs the Saints” on Facebook after the game.
After receiving over 70 likes on the post, his friends posted comments such as “Hey, now be nice with those yellow flags for our Saints!!” and “That’s awesome you get to be an official for a Saints game! I didn’t think they would let you since your from Louisiana.”
It’s clear that the National Football League failed to take advantage of social media to vet Stropolo before hiring him. According to USA Today, the league does conduct background checks in order to discover gambling issues or other potentially damaging relationships that would preclude a referee from performing their duties accurately. In addition, Stropolo was specifically asked about any loyalty to a NFL team, but he didn’t disclose his preference for the New Orleans Saints. However, management with the National Football League could have easily checked Stropolo’s public Facebook page to figure out his loyalty to the Louisiana-based team.
Since the league suspended Stropolo, the Facebook page in question has been removed from public view and possibly deleted. Earlier today, a league spokesman stated “We are reviewing Mr. Stropolo’s status and pending completion of that review, he will not be serving as an onfield game official.“
One of Stropolo’s violations is going to include revealing his game assignment on Facebook. It’s likely that officials aren’t supposed to reveal game assignments to the public prior to the next game.
This isn’t the first problem that the NFL has run into with replacement referees during the NFL Referees Association negotiation. During week one, the officiating crew at the Arizona-Seattle game awarded Seattle an additional timeout beyond the team’s normal allotment for the game. Revealed by NFL.com, one of the officials that worked that game has been paid by the Seahawks in the past to officiate season practices.
This also isn’t the first time that something on Facebook has attributed to action against a NFL team employee. During 2009, stadium operations gate chief Dan Leone was let go after posting “Dan is [expletive] devastated about Dawkins signing with Denver … Dam Eagles R Retarted!!” The post was related to former Eagles player Brian Dawkins signing with the Denver Broncos as a free agent. Leone was fired after six years of working for the Eagles organization, but was rewarded by Dawkins with tickets to the Eagles-Broncos game during the 2009 season.