Tim Donaghy: Whistle-Blower

10 06 2008

Tim Donaghy, an ex-NBA referee, has told federal agents that fellow referees conspired to extend a 2002 playoff series to its seventh game.

“Donaghy, who pleaded guilty in Brooklyn Federal Court to charges of betting on games he officiated, told FBI agents “league officials would tell referees that they should withhold calling technical fouls on certain star players because doing so hurt ticket sales and television ratings,” the document said.

Donaghy claims he was told that two refs who were “company men” acting in the interest of the NBA conspired to extend a playoff series in 2002 to a seventh game.

The referees allegedly ignored flagrant fouls committed by the team that needed to win. They also reportedly called “made-up fouls” against the other team which led to the ejection of two of their players. The team favored by the refs won that night and the next game to win the series.”

Here’s my gut reaction without the benefit of reflection:  As easy as it is to believe Donaghy, I feel like he’s crying wolf in this one. 

There have been a few incidents involving NBA referees in recent years.  It’s easy to blame refs.  Donaghy knows this and he sees that’s it easy to tip the scales in his favor.  So, I feel as though Donaghy’s just grabbing for something as he slips lower and lower. 

Voila!  NBA and referee conspiracy!  It’s what we’ve wanted since the Patrick Ewing draft!  We suspected it in last year’s Suns-Spurs series.   It’s finally here!

It really is a shame that this Donaghy story falls on the eve of the Finals Game 2.  Some good basketball will be de-railed further by everyone’s sensitivity to officiating. 

Because we have such easy access to videos and other peoples’ opinions, someone’s always going to cry foul on a referee call.  It will be interesting to see how David Stern and the NBA handle this kind of allegation. 




6 responses

11 06 2008

The NBA officiating has been TERRIBLE this playoff year. Usually the conspiracy theorist around the NBA are fun to listen too but ultimately not believable. But this year, I’m starting to wonder.

Donaghy isn’t a trustworthy guy, you’re right about that, but you mentioned game two of the finals. Powe took more freethrows than the entire Lakers team. You’ve got to be kidding me! The freethrow disparity has be crazy this entire playoffs. Then you think about how Joey Crawford, who got suspended last year because he tossed Tim Duncan out, was brought back to referee the San Antonio Lakers series. He clearly has a problem with Duncan, so much so that the NBA had to suspend him, and yet that’s the guy they pick to ref the Spurs Lakers series. Come on. I does start to make you wonder if they were trying to push for a Lakers Celtics finals.

But this all speculation and unless Donaghy can provide some hard evidence, it won’t go anywhere. But this adds to my dislike of David Stern. He is so busy with dress codes that he has ignored the fact that the refs have been awful this playoffs to the point that usually reserved sports casters and analysists are even talking about it. Maybe it isn’t a conspiracy, but it does point to the fact that the NBA has a serious problem and that the idea that it all begins and ends with Donaghy is misguided I think.

11 06 2008

True. Two thoughts about NBA conspiracies. If you think that there’s a conspiracy (or a possibility of one), Donaghy wouldn’t be the sole culprit. You’ll also see him blowing the whistle and wonder what he has to gain from this. Then his claim seems substantial.

On the other hand, it’s difficult to run a conspiracy. I took a JFK assassination class in college and it’s interesting to start listing the number of people that would have to be “in on it.” In this case, senior referees, junior referees would be complicit, NBA top-level management that decide how to fix games, mid-level management that serve as links, etc. Of all those people, why does only Donaghy step forward and why just now?

11 06 2008

IMHO … anyone who believes that Tim Donaghy was/is the only NBA referee intricately involved with wagering on NBA games is extremely naive.

11 06 2008

I never insisted that Donaghy is the only NBA official who may have wagered on NBA games. The NBA has a serious problem and it’s probably not exclusive to Donaghy. I’m talking about a conspiracy theory.

I’m simply wondering whether this fixing allegation is (1) a lone case, (2) a red flag and the tip of the iceberg or (3) a conduit that brings conspiracy theories to a head.

Generally, it seems that people are leaning toward the tip of the iceberg thought and that thinking is problematic for the sanctity of the game.

11 06 2008

It’s definantly problematic for the sanctity of the game. As far as gambling goes, you are both right to think that there is no way it was just Donaghy doing this.

The JFK think is a good analogy. Too many people would have to take part and keep quiet to make it work. However, by just tampering with a few refs, you can impact a game and possibly get the result you want.

So Joey Crawford probably isn’t crooked, but why would the NBA assign him to the most important game of the Spurs season when he clearly has problems with the Spurs’ best player?

Along the JFK lines, you could solve all these problems with just a little bit of transparency. But Stern runs the NBA like a dictator so whether there is anything to the theories or not, the lack of access to Stern’s office allows those types of theories to bloom.

The most interesting thing to me, sorry for going on and on, is what if this blows up and becomes a huge scandal. Then you’d have baseball tarnished by steroids, basketball tarnished by gambling, and football waiting to be taken down for both of those things if journalists would just do some digging. Imagine all three major sports in crisis!

11 06 2008

Exactly my thoughts on David Stern. And that’s where my thinking stems from — though I didn’t do a good job of conveying that.

Stern doesn’t do the NBA any favors by running it like a dictatorship. Donaghy stepping forward isn’t so much of an implication to me, in terms of conspiracy, but rather a play on Stern’s shadiness.

The three major sports crisis would be terrible and it does explain why people are gravitating towards lesser-known and newly established sports. Lacrosse anyone?

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