An NFL replacement referee was pulled from the officiating crew of a game on Sunday morning due to a Facebook photo he posted of himself decked out in a hat and sweatshirt supporting one of the teams involved.
Now, the league says it's reviewing social media use the temporary referees who are overseeing games while the league and its regular officials union negotiate a labor dispute.
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“We are doing a thorough review of the situation involving the current officials and social-media sites,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told Bloomberg in an email.
Side judge Brian Stropolo was removed from assignment for Sunday's game between the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers after a report by ESPN's Chris Mortensen that he had posted multiple photos of himself at a preseason Saints game and listed himself as a fan of the team on Facebook.
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"The NFL was unaware of Stropolo's open allegiance as a Saints fan until ESPN contacted the league Sunday morning," Mortensen reported.
Stropolo's profile now appears inactive, but the pictures were a hit online Sunday and Monday among NFL fans, conspiracy theorists and critics of the NFL's replacement referees. That's one of his shots, posted above.
Replacements were used during the entire preseason and have stayed on for the first two weeks of the regular season during the league's ongoing negotiations with the NFL Referees Association.
The NFL not being aware of Stropolo's social media Saints fandom until being notified by ESPN certainly puts a bit of egg on its league face. But the situation also underscores the difficulties of relying on a cast of officials who have been culled from lower divisions of college football, in many cases hold day jobs and typically watch NFL Sundays from the couch. Potentially inappropriate social media posts by replacement refs are just one of many concerns for the league, however, as a growing chorus of players and media have become sharply critical of the temporary crews' on-field performance.
Does a social media posts like Stropolo's make a sports official unfit to referee a game? Give us your take in the comments.
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The league's official account. A no-brainer for any NFL fan.
This story originally published on Mashable here.