Tampa Bay Buccaneers star wide receiver Mike Evans giving his number to an official after a Week 7 loss got called “a bad look” by NFL Netowrk’s Tom Pelissero.
Evans downplayed it and said he saw Sheena Quick of 1340 AM Fox Sports filming the incident between him and two referees, Jeff Lamberth and Tripp Sutter on Sunday, October 23. The the NFL concluded that the referees didn’t ask Evans for autographs, which would violate NFL-NFLRA terms, per Pelissero. Evans and Lamberth notably both attended Texas A&M for college — albeit different years.
“It wasn’t that serious. Someone with a camera was just recording us,” Evans told reporters on Tuesday. “I’ve seen the recordings, too, and it wasn’t a big deal at all. There’s nothing there. They weren’t asking for autographs. Let’s be clear on that.”
“I talk to a lot of the officials. We’re all human beings. He’s a nice guy,” Evans said prior about giving his number to Lamberth for connecting with a golf pro for lessons. “That’s all. We were just talking about golf. That’s all we were talking about.”
According to Pelissero, “Lamberth was getting Evans’ phone number to pass it along to a golf pro to give Evans lessons, per source,”. Pelissero added that “Lamberth didn’t have paper, so he borrowed it from another official”.
Two Videos of Evans’ Incident Surfaced
Quick caught the incident on camera twice and commented “I didn’t know refs get autographs after the game” via Twitter. Quick’s second video shows Evans signing something for a referee. That appearance got the ball rolling for the NFL, which the league addressed in the statement.
In the video, one referee clearly yells “Mike” to grab Evans’ attention. The referees appear to hand Evans pieces of paper, which Evans appears to sign. Lamberth and Sutter both have significant experience as NFL referees with 24 years between the two.
“The league [in its statement] 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,” ESPN’s Kevin Seifert reported.
“Both Lambeth 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 the pregame and postgame time periods,” the NFL’s statement reads.
Pelissero previously noted that the NFL and NFL Referees Association collective bargaining agreement “specifically says game officials ‘shall not… ask players, coaches or any other team personnel for autographs or memorabilia'”.
There is an exception off the field, however. Referees “can seek autographs and memorabilia for charitable purposes, but those requests must go through the league officiating department” according to Seifter.
Referees have violated the autograph and memorabilia policy in the past. Former NFL referee Jerry Bergman sought an autograph from former Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre in 1995.
More Than a ‘Bad Look’?
While the Week 7 incident with Evans and two referees didn’t amount to an autograph signing, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio took a more skeptical approach, noting that the league’s statement didn’t include anything about what the incident was about when autographing was ruled out.
“The whole thing is weird,” Florio wrote. “The league’s refusal to be transparent made it weirder. Evans’s refusal to be transparent makes it weirder still, because he did nothing wrong. There’s no reason for him to not tell the truth.”