SBD/Issue 33/Leagues & Governing Bodies

Stern To Alter Gambling Rule After All Refs In Violation

Stern Feels Gambling Rules For
Referees Need To Be Changed
NBA Commissioner David Stern following the league's BOG meeting in N.Y. on Thursday indicated that an internal review has found that “all of the league’s 56 referees violated the contractual prohibition against engaging in gambling, with more than half of them admitting to placing wagers in casinos,” according to Chris Sheridan of  Stern added that “none of the violations [were] major, and no referees had admitted to wagering in a sports book or with a bookie.” But he acknowledged that the gambling rules in the referees’ labor agreement were “outdated in regard to changing attitudes toward gambling in the [U.S.], and he said they’d be rewritten to allow various forms of gambling, including casino betting (but not on sports) during the offseason.” Stern: “Our ban on gambling is absolute, and in my view it is too absolute, too harsh and was not particularly well-enforced over the years. We’re going to come up with a new set of rules that make sense.” Meanwhile, NBA Senior VP/Basketball Operations Stu Jackson will “lose some of his power in the months ahead." He will “retain control over basketball operations," but a new exec will be hired "to oversee all aspects relating to the officiating staff.” Also, NBA Dir of Officials Ronnie Nunn will spend “more time on the road concentrating on the mentoring of young officials. He also will cease doing a show on NBA-TV that focused on the league’s officiating.” Stern said that the league “still did not know for sure whether former referee Tim Donaghy impacted the outcome of games he had placed bets on.” He said that the NBA was “interested in speaking to Donaghy and expected to have an opportunity to do so in the coming week or months.” (, 10/25). Stern said, “Mr. Donaghy acted alone. There are no other referees who bet on NBA games” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 10/26).  Stern introduced “several initiatives to strengthen the referee program and guard against future criminal activity” (N.Y. TIMES, 10/26).

Writers Agree With Stern's Decision
Not To Punish Refs For Gambling 
REAX: NBRA Exec Dir Lamell McMorris said, “I commend Commissioner Stern and the league for the way this has been handled. I appreciate the way the union and league have worked in a collaborative manner since this began” (USA TODAY, 10/26). In N.Y., Peter Vecsey writes under the header, “NBA Bets On Common Sense.” Vecsey wrote the fact the gambling rule only applied to refs, and not to players or team or league execs, "is one of the reasons the commissioner has decided, at long last, to eradicate the inequitable double standard” (N.Y. POST, 10/26). The Boston Globe’s Jackie MacMullan said she agrees with Stern's decision not to punish the refs: "There’s a big difference between what Tim Donaghy did and what these referees were doing. … Think about it, you’re on a cruise with your family, you wander down to the casino, you pull a slot machine, or maybe you throw some dice. ... If you want to punish the referees for that sort of behavior, and want to follow the rule to the letter or the law, then you’ve got a problem because over half of your referees are going to have to be punished” ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 10/25).  However, in Chicago, Greg Couch writes under the header, “Commissioner Isn’t Nearly Stern Enough: When Image Is Everything, NBA Boss Hurts It With Softer Gambling Stance.” Couch: “I can’t say for sure that he’s covering something up, but let’s just say it smells bad.”  During a teleconference after the Donaghy news, Stern said, "The legal betting will cost you your job.  The illegal betting, depending upon the context, may cost you your freedom" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 10/26).

VEGAS: Stern indicated that if an “NBA-quality” arena were built in Las Vegas, it would “enhance the city’s chances” of landing an NBA team, but he was “quick to point out there are no immediate plans to expand and didn’t promise Las Vegas would be first in line for an expansion team.” Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman said that while he would “welcome the NBA to Las Vegas, he would not ask the sports books to take NBA games off betting boards.” Stern “remains uncomfortable with that position, but ultimately, the owners will decide if Las Vegas has an NBA future” (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 10/26).

COLLEGE: NCAA Coordinator of Men’s Basketball Officials Hank Nichols said that the NCAA is “hitting gambling issues harder in a series of preseason officiating clinics it conducts every year.” NCAA Division I men’s basketball referee Ed Hightower said because of the Donaghy affair, “Certainly, anyone affiliated with the game has a heightened sensitivity. We will be more in a fishbowl than we’ve been in some time.” Texas Tech men’s basketball coach Bob Knight, who in an interview in ’98 said a game official is “the most susceptible guy in any (sports) gambling scheme,” said, “I wrote Nichols a letter to remind him about a month ago. I sent him a copy of the article (from) 10 years ago” (USA TODAY, 10/26).

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