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NBA'S NAMING OF TWO WOMEN REFS DRAWS MIXED REACTION
Published October 29, 1997
The NBA officially added Violet Palmer and Dee Kantner to its '97-98 officiating staff, marking the first time ever that women will officiate an NBA regular-season game (NBA). In Boston, Peter May writes the NBA is "enhancing its reputation as a league on the cutting edge of social issues" with the move (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/29). In N.Y., Mike Wise writes the move "helped remove yet another barrier for women in American sport" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/29). In Miami, Steve Wyche writes that the league, which has "revolutionized itself time and time again ... has gone a step further" (MIAMI HERALD, 10/29). Women's Sports Foundation Exec Dir Donna Lopiano credited NBA Commissioner David Stern: "As go the values of the leader, so goes the organization. The NBA has done the right thing. ... I can't say enough for David Stern. The buck stops there" (NEWSDAY, 10/29) PROS OR CONS: A sampling of comments made by NBA players on the move: The Pistons' Brian Williams: "No man belongs refing games in the WNBA and no woman belongs refing games in the NBA. And you can mail that to David Stern." Also in Detroit, a "half-serious" Grant Hill: "A striped shirt is a striped shirt. They're all bad. They are all the enemy" (DETROIT NEWS, 10/29). The Suns' Tom Chambers: "They'll be just like any other rookie official, and that's not an easy job -- male, female or indifferent" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 10/29). The Rockets' Charles Barkley: "I think all referees suck, number one. I think they all suck. ... I just prefer to have men officials doing NBA games. ... I just don't like it. I got to deal with it, of course, and I'll respect them and treat them well, but I'm not going to sit here and tell you I like it." The Bulls' Dennis Rodman: "I'm going to treat them just like a man. They want to be a ref, they're going to be treated like a man, right? If I go by and hit them on the butt, it means I'm only trying to get friendly with them" ("Fox Sports News," 10/28). Bulls Coach Phil Jackson: "Dennis is always patting referees on the butt, and that's something that bothers me more than anything else. I've already told Dennis he's going to have to watch it with this." The Bulls' Michael Jordan: "You have to have the utmost respect for them in the sense that certain things you do with other referees, you can't really say" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 10/29). The Wizards' Juwan Howard: "It's going to be tough for a woman, especially if some guys use profanity after a bad call" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/29). The Rockets' Kevin Willis: "I think we'll have to clean up the language a little" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 10/29). OFFICIAL RESPONSE: Veteran NBA ref Joe Crawford: "I don't think there's a problem if the women can take the (expletive). ... I know some of these women can do the job. ... I don't think the players are going to like it. They don't like change. But who am I to say who I referee with?" A retired NBA official, who asked to remain anonymous: "I can't imagine them taking in women where there are so many good [CBA] officials" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 10/29).