The NFL has cleared a pair of officials accused of seeking an autograph from Mike Evans.
Refs Jeff Lamberth and Tripp Sutter went mega-viral over the weekend after a video circulated that appeared to show the pair asking the Buccaneers receiver for an autograph following the Carolina game.
In the video, you can see the refs flag Evans in the tunnel and then hand him something to sign.
“After speaking with the individuals involved, we have confirmed that the postgame interaction between Jeff Lamberth, Tripp Sutter, and Mike Evans did not involve a request by the game officials for an autograph,” the NFL announced Tuesday.
The league also said refs need to avoid “even the appearance of impropriety when interacting with players, coaches and club staff on gameday – including during the pregame and postgame time periods.”
While it’s not confirmed, Tom Pelissero did add the ref was getting Evans’ number to pass along to a golf pro. That was not in the NFL’s statement or confirmed by the league.
The statement from the NFL about Mike Evans and the refs is missing one big thing.
Notably, the NFL didn’t reveal what the refs were asking Evans to sign. Given the allegations of seeking an autograph, you’d think the league would want to make clear what actually happened.
Instead, the NFL hasn’t really provided any further details. Fans are being asked to accept this explanation at face value.
That’s a very tough ask given the video footage.
That’s not to say the refs did, indeed, do anything wrong. They might be totally in the clear as the NFL claims. Pelissero’s follow-up about getting a number for a golf pro seems reasonable and realistic. However, why not just explain what was the case? It’s very believable and vanilla.
Was adding an extra line or two too much for the NFL? It seems like this statement will raise more questions instead of putting the situation to bed.
As of now, it looks like this issue has been put to bed, unless more information comes out. It certainly seems like the phone number explanation makes a hell of a lot of sense.