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NFL Reviews Replacement Officials’ Social-Media Behavior as Fans

Sept. 17 (Bloomberg) -- The National Football League is reviewing the behavior of its replacement officials on social-media websites after replacing a crew member assigned to call the New Orleans Saints’ game yesterday because photos on Facebook showed him wearing the team’s gear.

As the NFL yesterday drew increased criticism in its second week of games without regular officials because of a lockout, the league’s decision to replace side judge Brian Stropolo with alternate Tim Keese was done “to avoid any appearance of conflict,” Greg Aiello, an NFL spokesman, said in an e-mail.

Stropolo, a Louisiana resident, posted photos of himself wearing a shirt and hat with the Saints’ logo on them while tailgating during an Aug. 25 preseason game, said ESPN. The league didn’t know about Stropolo’s allegiance to the team until it was contacted by ESPN, the network said.

“We are doing a thorough review of the situation involving the current officials and social-media sites,” Aiello said.

The replacement officials have been recruited from the second level of college football and lower.

A voicemail message left at the office of Mike Arnold, the chief negotiator for the NFL Referees Association, wasn’t immediately returned. Tim Millis, the NFLRA’s executive director, declined to comment on the replacement officials’ performance in a telephone interview.

After Week 1 yielded few complaints about the replacement officials’ performance, yesterday’s games drew criticism from players.

Ravens’ Complaints

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis and quarterback Joe Flacco were among the most vocal, saying there were several officiating errors in their team’s 24-23 loss at the Philadelphia Eagles.

“There’s some serious calls the refs missed, and it’s just the way it is all around the league,” Lewis told reporters.

Flacco told reporters that the substitutes are “affecting the integrity of the game.”

Aiello said that the work of on-field officials “is never perfect.”

“The current officials have made great strides and are performing admirably under unprecedented scrutiny and great pressure,” the league spokesman said. “As we do every season, we will work to improve officiating and are confident that the game officials will show continued improvement.”

Pay, pensions and operational issues have kept the NFL and the referees’ union from reaching a new labor deal. The league so far has made a schedule for the replacements to work through Week 5 of the regular season, ESPN said.

“We are ready to negotiate at any time with the NFLRA,” Aiello said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mason Levinson in New York at mlevinson@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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