Side judge Brian Stropolo is a fan of the Saints, according to his Facebook page. He was pulled from the assignment Sunday morning and replaced with an alternate, Tim Keese, who travels with the crew.
The NFL was unaware of Stropolo's open allegiance as a Saints fan until ESPN contacted the league Sunday morning.
Stropolo, who is from New Orleans area and lists himself on Facebook as an NFL side judge, posted pictures of himself in Saints gear tailgating at an Aug. 25 preseason game. Stropolo did not work the game against the Texans, but he was assigned to Sunday's game in Carolina. There were several photos of Stropolo in Saints gear on his Facebook page.
Stropolo worked the Week 1 opener between the Cowboys and Giants and posted on Sept. 5: "Thanks to everyone for all the support. The crew did a great job tonight. Next stop September 16th at Carolina vs the Saints."
Stropolo's status update drew 73 "likes" and comments such as "Hey, now be nice with those yellow flags for our Saints!!" and "That's awesome you get to be an official for a Saints game! I didn't think they would let you since your (sic) from Louisiana."
Stropolo's Facebook page has since been taken down.
The NFL Referees Association was locked out in early June and talks on a new collective bargaining agreement have gone nowhere. The league has said replacement officials are subject to the same background checks and ethical standards of the locked out officials. A league executive conceded, at the very least, "an appearance of impropriety" warranted Sunday's action.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.