NFL says refs weren’t seeking Evans’ autograph
11: 30 AM ET
Kevin SeifertESPN Staff Writer
- ESPN.com national NFL writer
- ESPN.com NFC North reporter, 2008-2013
- Covered Vikings for Minneapolis Star Tribune, 1999-2008
A postgame interaction between two game officials and Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans did not involve a request for an autograph, the NFL said in a statement Tuesday.
Following the Buccaneers’ 21-3 loss Sunday to the Carolina Panthers, 1340 AM Fox Sports captured video of side judge Jeff Lamberth and line judge Tripp Sutter calling Evans’ name. Evans then wrote something on the card they gave him.
Following conversations with the individuals involved, however, the league determined that Lamberth and Sutter weren’t asking for an autograph. The league didn’t provide any details about why they called Evans or what was said during the interaction. A NFL spokesperson said that the league did not have any additional details to share in response to a follow up question.
“I wasn’t signing my autograph, I’ll tell you that,” Evans told reporters Tuesday. “I speak to many officials, we are all human beings. He’s a nice man, so we were talking about golf. That was all we were talking about. “
NFL Network reported Tuesday that Lamberth, like Evans, went to Texas A&M and wanted the receiver’s phone number to give to a golf professional so he could give Evans lessons. According to NFL Network, Lamberth didn’t have a card to write Evans’ number on so he borrowed one from Sutter.
The NFL statement made no mention of discipline for either official, but the league did add: “Both Lamberth and Sutter have been reminded of the importance of avoiding even the appearance of impropriety when interacting with players, coaches, and club staff on gameday — including during the pregame and postgame time periods. “
A request for comment from the NFLRA was not immediately returned.
The collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFL Referees Association prohibits game officials from approaching players and coaches for autographs, citing the appearance of partiality. Officials may request autographs and memorabilia to support charitable causes, but they must first go through the league’s officiating division.
Lamberth is in his 21st NFL season, and Sutter is in his fourth.
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