The Washington Post

NFL officiating boss reportedly spotted partying with the Cowboys and some NFL officials are said to be pretty upset

Dean Blandino, NFL vice president of officiating, begins a training session during the Annual NFL Officiating Clinic in Irving, Texas, last month. (LM Otero /AP)

TMZ is better known for spreading rumors than disseminating news, but the celebrity gossip conglomerate caught something on their prying cameras this week that reportedly has NFL executives irate. Here’s Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports:

“Executives from several NFL clubs expressed extreme disappointment and anger at a TMZ video that appears to show the league’s head of officiating, Dean Blandino, out for a night of partying in Los Angeles with Cowboys EVP and son of owner Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones. …

The reactions to the video by officials of several teams — none of whom I spoke to are a natural rival of the Cowboys or had any personal issues with Jones or Blandino — as well as former high-ranking team officials, were quite visceral. Several expressed concern at the appearance of potential competitive balance issues, given the sensitive nature of Blandino’s role and his authority on matters of officiating and interpretation.”

The video shows what many believe to be Blandino exiting Cowboys team party bus in front of a Sunset Strip nightclub with a long line of others. The man who looks like Blandino was smiling and dressed in a blue/purple shirt and jeans. He doesn’t say anything to the camera and appears for just seconds, but according to La Canfora, the video shows enough to cause among several other NFL team executives.

“That’s definitely Dean,” one NFL official told La Canfora after watching the video. “That looks horrible. I can’t think of another owner in the league who wouldn’t be pissed off after seeing that.”

Another NFL official told La Canfora:

“So, should I have my owner take [Blandino] to a strip club when he visits us? Is that how it works? We like Dean a lot, but let me tell you, if that was him out with [the owner of a rival of the club this official works for], my owner would be going nuts. This just can’t happen.

It shows a total lack of judgment, and common sense, to get on the bus in the first place. And then to get off of it in that setting? Yeah, we’ve got a big problem with that. It’s one thing to have a drink or two back in the hotel room or whatever, but this goes way beyond that. How does this not look like preferential treatment? … To teams, this is definitely a big deal.”

Still more unnamed NFL officials talked to La Canfora.

“It’s total hypocrisy. This is a league where some people are above the law, but if you are a coach or a player or a low-level team employee, look out — they’ll throw the book at you,” said one.

“Whether or not this would in any way affect Dean’s ability to be impartial with the Cowboys is really not the issue. This gives the appearance of impropriety. If I am a fan of a team facing the Cowboys, or I work for a team that’s facing the Cowboys, I’m upset by this,” said another.

“If I were another team owner, how could I not be irate? It gives the appearance of impropriety, and looks like a particularly cozy relationship between a team and the officiating department at a time when instant replay is being taken over more and more by the league office. You’re damn right I’d be irate,” said an NFL official.

So what’s likely to happen next?

Beyond the anonymous verbal side-eyes, it doesn’t seem like much. NBC Sports football analyst Mike Florio writes,  after speaking to his own unnamed NFL source, that the league office has not received any complaints about Blandino’s alleged relationship with the Cowboys owner’s son. The NFL has also refused to comment publicly. Florio goes on to write that the whole kerfuffle is much ado about nothing anyway:

“Unless Blandino possesses the healing powers of Mr. Miyagi and used them on Tony Romo’s back, Blandino’s visit as a practical matter will have no connection to the Cowboys’ on-field fortunes. And if other teams truly are worried about the possibility that Blandino has taken residence in the Cowboys’ back pocket, those other team either need better things to worry about, or they’re worrying about the wrong things.”

What’s your opinion?

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Marissa Payne writes for The Early Lead, a fast-breaking sports blog, where she focuses on what she calls the “cultural anthropological” side of sports, aka “mostly the fun stuff.” She is also an avid WWE fan.



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Marissa Payne · August 8, 2014