NFL says refs weren’t seeking Evans’ autograph
Oct 25, 2022
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 a card they handed him.
Following conversations with the individuals involved, however, the league determined that Lamberth and Sutter weren’t asking for an autograph. The league did not specify why they called out to Evans nor what was said during the interaction. In response to a follow-up question, an NFL spokesman said the league had no other details to share.
“I wasn’t signing my autograph, I’ll tell you that,” Evans told reporters Tuesday. “I talk to a lot of officials, we’re all human beings. He’s a nice guy, so we was talking about golf. That’s all we was 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. Lamberth didn’t have a card for Evans to write his number on, so he borrowed one from Sutter, according to NFL Network.
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 can seek autographs and memorabilia for charitable purposes, but those requests must go through the league’s officiating department.
Lamberth is in his 21st NFL season, and Sutter is in his fourth.