Two NFL Referees Under League Investigation For Alleged Mike Evans Autograph After Panthers Game

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

For years, football fans have been accusing the National Football League of being bias towards certain teams based on how referees officiate games. On Monday, the league’s integrity is being brought into question by fans due to an incident that occurred involving two league referees after the game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Carolina Panthers.

According to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, side judge Jeff Lamberth and line judge Trip Sutter were seen walking up to Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans after getting his attention. Evans was then handed a pen and slip of paper to sign something. The National Football League is said to be investigating the incident. Under the NFL-NFLRA collective bargaining agreement (CBA), game officials are not permitted to “ask players, coaches or any other team personnel for autographs or memorabilia.”

Side judges are positioned in the defensive backfield, 25 yards downfield from the line of scrimmage (LOS) on the same side of the field as the down judge. Additionally, side judges also serve as the primary timekeeper if the game clock malfunctions. Meanwhile the line judges are positioned on the opposite sideline from down judge, looking directly down the LOS. General responsibilities of line judges include watching for offsides and/or encroachment, keeping count of the number of offensive players on the field and making calls on plays on the nearest half of the field.

The NFL-NFLRA CBA was originally signed in November 2019 and is expected to run through May 2026.

Tampa Bay came into Sunday’s game as 13-point favorites against its division rival. The Panthers were starting third-string quarterback PJ Walker and had recently traded away one of its best offensive weapons in running back Christian McCaffery. McCaffery was traded to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for a haul of draft picks. Draft picks include a 2023 2nd-rounder, 2023 3rd-rounder, 2023 4th-rounder and 2024 5th-rounder. The Panthers pulled out a shocking, 21-3 upset victory over the Bucs and have pulled themselves to be within one game of the NFC South division lead.