Side judge Brian Stropolo has been pulled from officiating Sunday's Panthers v. Saints game following ESPN breaking the story that he is a rabid New Orleans Saints fan. In information gathered from the replacement official's Facebook account, there were picture depicting the side judge in Saints attire, and even pre-game photos outside the Superdome.
It is utterly indefensible that the NFL could allow a fan of a team to officiate for it. A Facebook account is hardly Fort Knox, and it's stunning this wasn't caught until the 11th hour. Sure, a side judge may not make the biggest impact in the game, and to immediately assume bias based solely on someone being a fan isn't accurate, however when there's a critical 3rd down catch on the sideline do you really want someone with any possible doubt in their mind?
It seems friends of Stropolo's saw cause to reference the anomaly of him calling the game, as the following comments were posted when Stropolo revealed he would be working the Panthers-Saints game.
"Hey, now be nice with those yellow flags for our Saints!!"
"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"
NFL, buddy, pal... I've really been trying to defend you on this whole 'replacement official' thing. I don't think the calls are as bad as everyone makes them out to be, and it's a case of forgetting how many errors the regular officials make; but not even checking to make sure a replacement official is a fan of a team in the game they're officiating? Yeesh.