New York Post Reports that an NBA Referee is Under Investigation for Fixing NBA GamesThis could turn out to be the darkest day in the history of the NBA. Murray Weiss of the New York Post reports that the FBI is investigating an NBA referee for betting thousands of dollars on games that he officiated and for making calls during those games to affect the point spread. Weiss does not identify the referee by name but ESPN.com has reported that the referee in question is Tim Donaghy, who recently resigned. At this point, it is not clear how many games were involved, though Weiss writes that a source told him that the number is in "double digits." It is also not clear if the outcomes of games were manipulated or just the point spreads.
The NBA has always vigorously tried to protect itself against even the hint of a gambling scandal. Ralph Beard, Dale Barnstable and Alex Groza--who played together at the University of Kentucky--were banned for life from the NBA because of their involvement in the infamous 1951 betting scandal that almost destroyed college basketball. Jack Molinas was banned from the NBA for alleging conspiring to fix games; he later was the main figure behind college basketball's 1961 betting scandal. Commissioner David Stern has adamantly refused to consider placing an NBA team in Las Vegas unless all NBA action is taken off of the books. Interestingly, the current scandal in the making apparently does not involve legal action in Las Vegas but illegal gambling being done by mafia connected figures in New York.
It is of paramount importance for any sports league not only that everything is on the up and up but that everything is perceived to be on the up and up. Even if this turns out to be "just"--and I use that word advisedly--a case involving one NBA referee, this potential scandal in the making will shake the confidence of fans and cause them to think "conspiracy" every time a call goes against their favorite team. This is a potential legal, ethical and public relations disaster for the NBA.
posted by David Friedman @ 4:10 PM