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Monday, September 17, 2012
Referee is under NFL review

ESPN.com news services

The side judge who was pulled from his assignment about three hours before Sunday's game between the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers will not be allowed to return as an official until the league completes a review of the circumstances that dictated the action.

Brian Stropolo, the side judge, had displayed his unabashed passion as a longtime Saints fan on his Facebook page, which has since been disabled. He also posted Sunday's game assignment, a specific violation of league policy for its officials.

"We are reviewing Mr. Stropolo's status and pending completion of that review, he will not be serving as an on-field game official," said Greg Aiello, the league's senior vice president of communications.

The NFL was unaware of Stropolo's open allegiance as a Saints fan until ESPN contacted the league Sunday morning.

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."

After a second week, some players are still not pleased with the job being done by the replacement referees.

Some players are even joking about dipping into their own pockets to settle the contract dispute and get the regular officials back on the field immediately.

"I don't know what they're arguing about, but I got a couple of [million] on it, so let's try to make it work," Washington defensive back DeAngelo Hall said, kiddingly, on Monday. "I'm sure the locker room could pot up some cash and try to help the cause out."

The NFL locked out the regular officials in June after their contract expired. Negotiations with the NFL Referees Association broke down several times during the summer, including just before the season, and the league is using replacements for the first time since 2001.

Officials had some bearing on the outcomes of several games including the Eagles' win over the Ravens that left Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis heated.

"The time is now," Lewis said. "How much longer are we going to keep going through this whole process? I don't have the answer. I just know across the league teams and the league are being affected by it. It's not just this game, it's all across the league. And so if they want the league to have the same reputation it's always had, they'll address the problem. Get the regular referees in here and let the games play themselves out.

"We already have controversy enough with the regular refs calling the plays."

In spite of the mounting concern about the replacement referees, the NFL remains resolute in its support of the new refs.

"Officiating is never perfect. The current officials have made great strides and are performing admirably under unprecedented scrutiny and great pressure," Aiello told The Associated Press. "As we do every season, we will work to improve officiating and are confident that the game officials will show continued improvement."

Information from ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen and The Associated Press was used in this report.