The National Football League finally closed the door on the replacement referee saga just over a week ago. The last two Sundays we have been fortunate to have the proper refs back in the saddle and doing their job. While the situation involving the poor officiating by the refs was bad, the NFL reminded us during preseason that they have a handle on a potentially worse threat.
During the preseason the league investigated replacement referee Shannon Easton for conduct prior to her officiating an NFL game. It had nothing to do with her performance on the field but rather her involvement in the field of professional gambling.
Site like this news website for poker reported how that Easton had played professional poker for a while and even participated in the World Series of Poker. League officials investigated the extent of her gambling activities because they were concerned they would conflict with the league’s policy against gambling.
The NFL has an anti-gambling policy in effect for its players, officials, and even management that forbids them from gambling in any form. Their reasoning is that if their players and officials do not rack up gambling debt, they cannot be influenced to throw a game.
As the Green Bay debacle showed, it only takes one missed call or one blown play to change the outcome of a game and the NFL has their policies in place to prevent this. The only thing that gets a partial pass are charity poker tournaments, but with exceptions. For example, if a charity event is at a casino, chances are they will not allow it. They nixed participation last year at the Golden Nuggett in Las Vegas due to this policy.
While some may feel that the league is trampling on player’s and official’s rights by enforcing this policy, the truth is that a policy like this is a necessary evil to protect the game. The league can survive a controversy like replacement referees, but a scandal like game fixing could virtually destroy it. Fortunately, with their anti-gambling policy, they should never have to experience the effects of such a scandal.