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Walt Anderson touts integrity of locked-out officials


As the NFL prepares to use replacement officials, there’s one attribute of the locked-out referees that possibly can’t be ensured via a crash course in the rules of pro football: Integrity.

“Back whenever I first applied to the NFL it was five years that they spent, not only scouting me, but going through the vetting process of looking into my background, talking to people who knew me,” veteran referee Walt Anderson tells Mark Berman of FOX26 in Houston. “They wanted to know a lot more about my character, my work ethic, the things that you were going to do off the field from that standpoint.

“The whole integrity of the game is put in our hands and the last thing [Commissioner Roger Goodell] wants to have out there on the field are people that are of potential questionable character.”

It’s a fair point. The Tim Donaghy scandal rocked the NBA. With the NFL rushing to get replacement officials ready to work games in place of the thoroughly-vetted regular officials, how can the league be sure that it won’t be getting someone who has been -- or who could be -- easily corrupted?

“You pretty much give away a lot of your rights in terms of a lot of privacy, but that goes with the game and you know that going in,” Anderson said. “From that standpoint, which I think is a big asset to the NFL. You know that process hasn’t gone on over the last couple of weeks. I don’t think there’s any way, in a matter of just a couple of weeks, you’re going to spend what normally took you several years to accomplish with the veteran officials, and even once they were in the league that vetting process continues.”
Anderson has a clear bias on this one, so there’s a chance he’s overstating the problem -- and in turn understating the league’s efforts to ensure that an replacement official won’t use his short-term stint as a way to pick up an envelope full of cash from a sweaty guy with gold chains, one eyebrow, and bad intentions. But the NBA surely never dreamed that one of its regular officials would be doing what Donaghy did. The NFL at least needs to be worried that one or more of the part-time short-timers they’ve hired to replace the regular officials will see this as an opportunity to make a very different kind of score.