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.
That sense was severely shaken in the now now notorious officiating during
Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the
Calls by the referees in the NBA are likely to be more subjective than in
professional baseball or football. But as the judicious and balanced Washington
Post sports columnist Michael Wilborn wrote this Sunday, too many of the calls
in the fourth quarter ( when the Lakers received 27 foul shots ) were "
stunningly incorrect ," all against Sacramento. After noting that the three
referees in Game 6 " are three of the best in the game," he wrote: I have never
seen officiating in a game of this consequence as bad as that in Game 6.
.....When Pollard on his sixth foul and final foul, didn't as much as touch Shaq.
Didn't touch any part of him. You could see it on TV, see it at courtside. It
wasn't a foul in any league in the world. And Divac, on his fifth foul, didn't
foul Shaq. They weren't subjective or borderline or debatable. And these fouls
not only resulted in free throws, they helped disqualify Sacramento's two
low-post defenders. " And one might add, in a 106-102 Lakers victory, this
officiating took away what would have been a Sacramento series victory in
This was not all. The Kobe Bryant elbow in the nose of Mike Bibby, who after
lying on the floor groggy, went to the sideline bleeding, was in full view of
the referee, who did nothing, prompted many fans to start wondering about what
was motivating these officials.
Wiborn discounted any conspiracy theories about the NBA-NBC desire for a Game
7 etc, but unless the NBA orders a review of this game's officiating,
perceptions and suspicions, however presently absent any evidence, will abound
and lead to more distrust and distaste for the games in general. When the
distinguished basketball writer for USA TODAY, David Dupree, can say: " I've
been covering the NBA for 30 years, and it's the poorest officiating in a
important game I've ever seen," when Wiborn writes that " The Kings and Lakers
didn't decide this series would be extended until Sunday, three referees
did...." when thousands of fans, not just those in Sacramento , felt the merit
lost to bad refereeing, you need to take notice beyond the usual and widespread
grumbling by fans and columnist about referees ignoring the rule book and giving
advantages to home teams and superstars.
Your problem in addressing the pivotal Game 6 situation is that you
have to much power. Where else can a decision -makers ( the referees ) escape
all responsibility to admit serious and egregious errors and have their bosses (
you ) fine those wronged ( the players and coaches ) who dare to speak out
In a February interview with David Dupree of USA TODAY, he asked you " Why
aren't coaches and players allowed to criticize the referees ?" You said, "...we
don't want people questioning the integrity of officials....It just doesn't pay
for us to do anything other than focus on the game it's self rather than the
officiating." " Integrity" which we take you to mean " professionalism" of the
referees has to be earned and when it's not, it has to be questioned. You and
your league have a large credibility problem. Referees are human and make
mistakes, but there comes a point that goes beyond any random display of poor
performance. That point was reached in Game 6 which took away the Sacramento
Kings Western Conference victory.
It seems you have a choice. You can continue to exercise your absolute power
to do nothing. Or you can initiate a review and if all these observers and fans
turn out to be right, issue, together with the referees , an apology to the
Sacramento Kings and forthrightly admit decisive incompetence during Game 6,
especially in the crucial fourth quarter.
You should know, however, that absolute power, if you choose the former
course of inaction, invites the time when it is challenged and changed-whether
by more withdrawal of fans or by more formal legal or legislative action. No
government in our country can lawfully stifle free speech and fine those
who exercise it, the NBA under present circumstances can both stifle and fine
players and coaches who speak up. There is no guarantee that this tyrannical
status will remain stable over time, should you refuse to bend to reason and the
reality of what occurred. A review that satisfies the fan's sense of fairness
and deters future recurrences would be a salutary contribution to the public
trust that the NBA badly needs.
We look forward to your considered response.
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