Published: December 17, 2023

Ex-NFL VP of officiating says NFL refs have been approached about manipulating games for gambling purposes

With gambling now legal in nearly every part of the country, it seems like NFL officials have been under more scrutiny this year. Whenever there's a bad call, you'll almost always hear at least one fan scream that the "fix" is in. 

Although the NFL has never had to deal with an officiating scandal, there have definitely been instances where officials were approached and asked to manipulate games, according Dean Blandino, who ran the NFL's officiating department from 2013 through 2017. 

During a recent interview on the Awful Announcing Podcast, Blandino was specifically asked if he was aware of any situations where an official might have been approached about fixing a game by impacting "a score or a stat line."

"We've had situations where people were approached," Blandino said. "We've always told our game officials because they're in hotels -- they're traveling around during the season -- we didn't want them wearing NFL-branded gear. We wanted them to be inconspicuous, because someone sees them and 'Oh, those are the NFL officials,' and then you never know. You don't know who you're gonna come across. And they know that they're supposed to go to NFL security if something like that happens, and that has happened in the past."

Blandino did mention that one reason the NFL has been able to avoid an officiating scandal is because the league has dozens of safeguards in place to prevent something like that from happening. That includes putting each official through a grueling hiring process. 

"The NFL has so many controls in place, just to become an official," Blandino said, via Awful Annoucing. "They look at all of your business associations. They look for conflicts of interest, all of that, bank accounts, everything. And there's checks during the season. And so, they'll look at if a game official has $10 in their bank account on Friday, and then they work a game, and now there's $100,000; that's a red flag, right? So, you're checking those things. You're monitoring the betting lines and looking at how calls impact those lines and are their individual officials that are involved in more of those calls. It's a massive, massive undertaking. Because what the league doesn't want and what we never wanted was a situation like what happened with the NBA, right?"

The NBA had a nightmare situation in 2007 when it came out that referee Tim Donaghy had been betting on games and manipulating the point spread of games that he was directly involved in. Based on the safeguards that the NFL has in place, it sounds like Blandino doesn't think the NFL will ever be dealing with a similar situation.


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