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SJ Stropolo yanked from Saints-Panthers



Replacement official’s Facebook profile puts him on inactive list

Side judge Brian Stropolo will not work today’s Saints-Panthers game (source: Facebook)

The NFL has removed side judge Brian Stropolo from today’s Saints-Panthers game because of a professed allegiance to one of the teams, as first reported by Chris Mortensen. Stropolo is in Charlotte, N.C., and apparently was already at Bank of America Stadium when the NFL benched him.

Stropolo’s Facebook timeline has pictures of him wearing Saints gear. In addition, after he was hired as a replacement official, Stropolo attended a Saints game on his week off during the preseason. Again, Facebook outed him with a picture of him outside of the Louisiana Superdome.

Stropolo was on the first crew to officiate an NFL regular season game this season, the kickoff game between the Cowboys and Giants. This crew was reportedly the highest-graded crew from the preseason, and assigned to the high profile opener. Stropolo is undoubtedly a qualified replacement official, and as a professional football referee, he would have been aware of maintaining his impartiality. But a lapse in judgement was revealed by the way the NFL became aware of the conflict of interest. ESPN brought it to the league’s attention, not Stropolo.

Clearly, NFL Security (yes, there is such a thing) was overwhelmed in doing background checks on 137 replacement officials (and unknown numbers of others who were disqualified). Things like Facebook profiles and involvement in games of chance have easily slipped through. Through the vetting process, it was up to Stropolo to reveal his allegiance, and at the very least, to self-report the information once he was assigned to a Saints game.

Yes, the regular, union officials (who are currently not working due to their collective bargaining agreement being expired) do have their allegiances. Because of the length of the hiring process, a prospective NFL official has a few years to mentally divorce himself from his favorite team so that his allegiances don’t become biases. Walt Anderson, who has been an NFL referee longer than the Houston Texans have been in existence, does not officiate any Texans games, as he is a Houston-area resident and a football alumnus of Sam Houston University. Apparently, this has been requested by Anderson.

Obviously, the referee’s union now, from an unlikely source, has slightly more leverage in the collective bargaining talks, whenever they resume. This is before the replacement officials’ performance in the bulk of the Week 2 games has been evaluated.

As for Stropolo’s controversy, no matter how qualified an official is, once such a lapse in judgement is expressed off the field, he is now — fairly or unfairly — questionable about his judgement on the field.

Ben Austro is the editor and founder of Football Zebras and the author of So You Think You Know Football?: The Armchair Ref's Guide to the Official Rules (on sale now)

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