Through the current lockout of its game officials, the NFL has been emphatic all along that its replacement officials have passed all appropriate background checks. One would assume that the fill-in crews go through the same checks that the regular, locked-out refs do, but in at least one case, the NFL really dropped the ball. Brian Stropolo, a side judge assigned to work Sunday's game between the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers, was pulled from the crew after it was discovered that his Facebook page shows him to be a hardcore Saints fan.

Ray Anderson, the NFL's executive vice president of football operations, said that while there was nothing "essentially improper" about Stropolo's specific allegiance, he was removed from the game as a "safe and appropriate measure" to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

There's a waterfront shot in which Stropolo is wearing a Saints hat and windbreaker, and another where he's wearing a Saints hat in a shot with three other people. There's still another shot in which Stropolo is seen tailgating at the Superdome before a preseason game -- fortunately, we suppose, he wasn't working that one.

It was also reported that Stropolo actually traveled to the game with the rest of the officiating crew and was on the field for warmups when he was pulled from the game by an NFL representative.

This is yet another embarrasment for the league in the ongoing battle with the NFLRA, and one can only imagine what the ramifications might have been had someone not notified the NFL of Stropolo's clear and obvious rooting interests. The NFL dodged a major bullet in the fight against the appearance of impropriety in this case, but if this is its actual vetting process, you can bet we'll hear of more shenanigans.

However, if this past weekend was ANY indication, those shenanigans are far from over.  Personally, I can't wait for the NFL and the NFLRA to settle their differences and lets get the REAL refs back to work.  Between blown calls, extremely late flags and some penalties taking upwards of 4-5 minutes to get settled its clear that the replacement refs were hastily picked, trained for about 8 minutes, then thrown to the Lions, and the Chargers, and the Bears.