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NBA Referee Scandal Cheapens the Sport of Basketball

New America Media, Commentary, Audio, Words: Charles Jones // Audio: Malcolm Marshall Posted: Jun 17, 2008

Editor's Note: The NBA dirty referee scandal cheapens the whole sport of basketball, says New America Media contributor Charles Jones, plus Malcolm Marshall hits the streets to find out what else people are saying about professional basketball.

(2m 41s, mp3, 8.MB) Download File

David Stern might just be the best commissioner in professional sports, period. I say this based on his management of what could have been the single most damaging event in all of pro-sports, since the Chicago White Sox threw that World Series back in 1919.

But this is even worse than that: This time, an official - Tim Donaghy - has been charged and convicted of altering the outcome of games to pay off his own gambling debts to mob bookies. Stern immediately and effectively launched a campaign to paint Donaghy as a rogue referee, who acted alone and in secret. He also quickly conducted an internal investigation into the matter to prove his assertions.

While this was the best way to go, the problem I have with Sterns actions and assertions are the fact that they happened so fast. He acted as if he were any other CEO of any other company, completely miscalculating the fact that so much emotion and attention gets paid to each and every minute of each and every game his company presents. He miscalculated the fact that even before BALCO had ever come into the public consciousness, most sports fans were already avid conspiracy theorists. So, when Donaghy, hoping to avoid a lengthy prison sentence, began to touch nerves by accusing that many NBA refs allow personal feelings and relationships (which are strictly forbidden by the league's "no fraternizing" rule) to affect their work and said that he could name two other officials who have altered outcomes, not just to individual games but entire playoff series. Not to mention that senior NBA officials often order refs to limit their foul calls against big name players. Accusations that shockingly come during a year when, even during playoffs, bad calls have been rampant and worse, no calls have been made.

Whats more shocking, though, is the fact that Im leaning more toward believing Donaghy. He has every reason in the world to lie, but in lieu of the treatment hes received, he has even more reason to tell every ugly truth he knows. Besides that, the point is to lessen his sentence, which is the opposite of what would happen if he went around lying and slandering to defend an already tarnished name.

The sad part is, with the O.J. Mayo controversy at USC, the game itself, not just the league has been given a black eye. The shadow of doubt that this entire episode casts cheapens the sport itself, it cheapens champions, and their championships. Hell, it cheapens just about everything but the damn seats.

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