View Full Version : Ralph Nader on NBA officiating

06-05-2002, 11:04 AM
Consumer advocate Ralph Nader and the League of Fans, a sports-industry watchdog, sent a letter to NBA Commissioner David Stern on Tuesday urging a review of the officiating in the aftermath of the "notorious" refereeing in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals between the Kings and the Lakers in L.A.

"At a time when the public's confidence is shaken by headlines reporting the breach of trust by corporate executives, it is important, during the public's relaxation time, for there to be maintained a sense of impartiality and professionalism in commercial sports performances," the letter said. "That sense was severely broken . . . during Game 6."

The Lakers shot 27 free throws in the fourth quarter and scored 16 of their final 18 points at the foul line in a 106-102 victory. Lakers guard Kobe Bryant's elbow to Mike Bibby's nose that was not called a foul with less than 20 seconds left "prompted many fans to start wondering about what was motivating these officials," the letter said. "Unless the NBA orders a review of this game's officiating, perceptions and suspicions, however presently absent any evidence, will abound," the letter continued.

"Your problem in addressing the pivotal Game 6 situation is that you have too much power. Where else can decision-makers (the referees) escape all responsibility to admit serious and egregious error and have their bosses (you) fine those wronged (the players and coaches) who dare to speak out critically? . . . A review that satisfies the fans' sense of fairness and deters future recurrences would be a salutary contribution to the public trust that the NBA badly needs."

from the San Francisco Chronicle (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/chronicle/archive/2002/06/05/SP147361.DTL)

06-05-2002, 11:43 AM
Here's another pretty good article on the officiating:

<< Refereeing the refs
by Jack McCallum, Sports Illustrated

Rarely have I heard an anticipatory buzz like the one before last Sunday's Game 7 Western Conference final between the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings at Arco Arena. Do you know who they are? Do you know who they're sending? No, the buzz was not about which celebrities were showing up -- we were in Sacramento, after all. It was about which refereeing crew the NBA would assign to officiate what to that point had been an unevenly whistled series. Everyone was amazed when Danny Crawford, Bernie Fryer and Ed T. Rush walked onto the court. They are not considered la cr&egrave;me de la cr&egrave;me of zebras; Fryer, in fact, was the ref who mistakenly waved off a game-winning three-point shot taken by the Charlotte Hornets' Baron Davis against Orlando earlier in the postseason.

Fortunately, on Sunday that crew did one of the better jobs I've seen in the playoffs, though Sacramento, I'm sure, wouldn't agree. So convinced were the Kings that the series had been stolen from them before Game 7 even a three-man team of Oliver Wendell Holmes, King Solomon and Judge Amy wouldn't have satisfied them. Moreover, I must've heard at least 10 casual conversations on the street about how poorly the series was refereed, and it wasn't just disgruntled Sacramento fans who thought the Lakers got the majority of advantageous calls.

I want you to know that I hate talking about the refs. Officiating is an impossibly difficult job. People who complain about the refs wouldn't last four minutes whistling an NBA game, maybe even a high school game. So, it is with some reluctance that I plunge -- before the opening game of the Finals between the Lakers and New Jersey Nets -- into this hot-button subject. Here's some of what I believe:

League officials do not gather refs in a room and instruct them about which team they want to win, or mandate that a series goes seven games. If any reporter in the history of the world believed that, I would hope he'd investigate it. The league has more integrity than that.

However, Game 6 of the Kings-Lakers series was one of the worst officiated games I've ever seen. The Lakers did get most of the calls.

Sacramento center Vlade Divac is one of my favorite people in the league, but he let his preoccupation with the refs affect his play in Sunday's game.

Refs, like players, are subject to momentum. That, in my opinion, is what happened to the officials in Game 6. Shaq was rocking and Shaq was rolling, and Shaq got most of the calls.

Superstars like O'Neal and Kobe Bryant get more calls than other players, always have, always will. The Lakers have two superstars, so it's predictable -- not fair, but predictable -- that they would've gotten more whistles in their favor than the Kings. The two worst calls I saw involving those two players both occurred (no surprise) in Game 6. In the first quarter, Mike Bibby was called for a foul on Bryant even though the Kings point guard didn't come within a foot of touching Kobe and, in the fourth, the same thing happened to Scot Pollard when he was guarding Shaq. And that was Pollard's sixth foul.

Having said that, I ask you to recall Game 2 of the series. The refs fouled Shaq out of that one.

The most egregious non-call made (or not made) on O'Neal has nothing to do with the physical contact he initiates. It's when he takes two steps, stops, then takes another. The man is already unstoppable; he's absolutely unstoppable when he's allowed to walk or stay in the lane for more than three seconds.

The worst mistake a ref can make is to anticipate a foul, i.e., assume that contact will be made by a defender when an offensive player goes to the basket. Shaq got a couple of those phantom calls in Game 6.

Yes, Divac does flop quite often. But the Lakers have three excellent tumblers themselves in Robert Horry, Derek Fisher and Rick Fox, who dove so much in the Sacramento series that it sometimes looked as if a 3-meter springboard competition had broken out.

Refereeing will not, in my opinion, be a major topic of conversation during the Finals. (Which will make the NBA ecstatic.) Divac's reputation for flopping laid the groundwork for a ref-centric series and the momentum built from there. The Lakers and Nets don't have that kind of built-in foundation to their rivalry.
My fervent hope is that these are my last words about refereeing ... at least until next season.

Sports Illustrated senior writer Jack McCallum covers the NBA beat for the magazine and is a regular contributor to CNNSI.com. >>

I really like and agree with his observation about O'Neal traveling and camping in the lane. That's the most egregious NON-call that makes the Lakers so difficult to beat.

06-05-2002, 12:05 PM
<< I really like and agree with his observation about O'Neal traveling and camping in the lane. That's the most egregious NON-call that makes the Lakers so difficult to beat. >>

Nice piece and thanks for posting it.

But it's definitely the contact that O'Neal gets away with (and the phantom fouls against players like Pollard) that makes the bigger difference, IMO.

Watch closely for NBA/Stern's response to all the negative buzz. It will all be indirect of course, but I think things are reaching the point where the league will have to react.

06-05-2002, 04:13 PM
good reading.

06-05-2002, 06:37 PM
Inviting politicians to get into bed with sports maybe isn't the greatest idea. Pretty soon they might start trying to enforce rules like affirmitive action in it and forcing an even distribution of white,latino,asian,arab,gay,seniors,fat,ugly, etc. players to run up and down the court for teams.

Lol, ok maybe not but I got a bad feeling if they get their claws to far into the NBA. And whatever Nader may have been in the past he is now a politician,any other guise second.

Nader? Good reading? I thought Texas was Bush country?

06-05-2002, 06:46 PM
There is nothing wrong with expanding your knowledge base. But I wouldn't expect a laker fan to know that. i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif Learn about the Mavs and you will be better for it.

06-05-2002, 06:54 PM
Lakermania - Bush country? You've obviously never been here. Especially Austin.

But you know, to other countries, America is &quot;Bush country&quot; and there are obviously those of us here that aren't supporters of him.

Anyway, I hope Stern is listening. I should be watching the Kings tonight. But, then again, LA in the playoffs is pretty good for ratings.

06-05-2002, 07:05 PM
Silly me, I thought that dude was elected governor by a landslide in your state. I have been to Texas before but since I was hunting I mostly saw the rural parts and the ppl I saw sure looked like Bush folks.

06-05-2002, 07:19 PM
I am a George Bush fan. Make no bones about it.

06-05-2002, 09:50 PM
The majority is obviously republican. But, you can't lump us all into one category was my point.

06-05-2002, 09:57 PM
AB- that was for lakergoofs benefit...i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif