Pundits React to Crawford SuspensionMost commentators seem to be unaware that Jake O'Donnell's career ended just as suddenly as Joey Crawford's apparently has, so several expressed surprise about the indefinite suspension levied by David Stern. The only difference between O'Donnell in 1995 and Crawford in 2007 is the intense media coverage now that makes it impossible for the NBA to simply sweep the whole thing under the rug. The NBA cannot have a referee become the main story in any game, let alone the upcoming playoff games that will decide who wins the 2007 championship. To the best of my knowledge, I am the first person who noted that O'Donnell is the most apt historical parallel to the Crawford situation, a point that I made when I wrote a post shortly after the Spurs-Mavs game ended. O'Donnell's ejection of Clyde Drexler from a 1995 playoff game--after refusing to shake Drexler's hand before the game--led to the immediate end of O'Donnell's long and distinguished career. O'Donnell never officiated another game and then announced his retirement months later. That would never work now. Instead, Stern spent Tuesday appearing on various TV and radio programs explaining why he suspended Crawford (it should also be noted that Duncan was fined $25,000 for his post-ejection comments; I have yet to hear whether or not the NBA has formally rescinded the second technical foul and the automatic fine associated with it). Not surprisingly, not everybody agreed with Stern's decision.
Tony Kornheiser, Michael Wilbon and others expressed surprise at Stern's suspension, apparently unaware of the O'Donnell precedent. Tim Legler, Woody Paige and others opined that Stern's action is too, well, stern--and they are wrong. I think that Stern is 100% correct now, just as he was when he made sure that O'Donnell never returned to the court; any official who acts like he is bigger than the game is a menace to the league's integrity, pure and simple. I don't care how highly he grades out from a technical standpoint--Crawford, like O'Donnell, lacks the proper attitude to officiate NBA games. Crawford proved that with his response to Stern: Crawford said that he would not hesitate to eject Duncan again under similar circumstances. So, Crawford is not only wrong but he is also unrepentant. Furthermore, as Stern noted, Crawford is a repeat offender who Stern previously warned about exactly this kind of conduct.
Calling the suspension "indefinite" as opposed to "permanent" is a smart move by Stern for two reasons: (1) it leaves open the possibility of Crawford admitting that he was wrong and seeing if there is a way to salvage his career; (2) if Crawford does not do this then it will be understood that he ended his career as opposed to Stern being blamed for taking Crawford's livelihood away from him. That said, the chances of Crawford ever officiating an NBA game again appear to be slim and none--and slim left the court with Duncan on Sunday.
I do agree with Legler that if Crawford has officiated his last game that this is a sad day for the NBA. It is sad that a longtime official cannot put his ego and emotions aside to do his job properly and it is sad that one of his last oncourt actions may have impacted the Western Conference playoff seeding.
posted by David Friedman @ 5:34 AM