NFL says refs weren’t seeking autograph from Mike Evans in postgame video; exchange reportedly was about golf

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About 24 hours after a possible dispute with the referees reared its ugly head, the NFL squashed it.

The NFL announced in a statement Tuesday that referees Jeff Lambert and Tripp Sutter did not ask Tampa Bay Buccaneers captain Mike Evans for an autograph after Sunday’s game between the Bucs and Carolina Panthers.

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The three’s interaction was filmed by Panthers Beat writer Sheena Quick, who posted it on social media Sunday. On it, Lambert and Sutter stopped Evans before he entered the dressing room and asked him to sign something the size of a catalog card. The video caused controversy, as well as an NFL investigation, as under no circumstances should officials ask players for autographs or memorabilia.

Sure, it looks like Evans is signing something with his name, but since the NFL has said it’s not an autograph, what exactly happened during that interaction? On Monday, Sportzshala Sports’ Charles Robinson spoke to several NFL executives who said they had never seen anything like it before.

Although the NFL did not disclose further details of the interaction in its statement, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero said it was a golf-related phone number exchange.

Evans also confirmed on Tuesday that the communication was focused on golf.

The NFL said in a statement that Lambert and Tripp were reminded of the importance of maintaining professional discipline with players, staff and coaches at all times so that no one has reason to doubt their impartiality.

TAMPA, FLORIDA - NOVEMBER 22: Mike Evans #13 of
TAMPA, FLORIDA – NOVEMBER 22: #13 Mike Evans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signs an autograph after defeating the New York Giants at Raymond James Stadium on November 22, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)


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