David Stern, Jim Rome Exchange Barbs After Radio Host Asks If NBA Draft Is Fixed
NBA Commissioner David Stern and syndicated radio host Jim Rome for years have had a rapport that allows them to needle each other on certain topics, but the two got into a contentious back-and-forth during Rome's show yesterday. Stern's appearance began in a manner typical of their previous conversations, with Stern saying of his presence in Oklahoma City for the NBA Finals, “I can’t handle it here ... because they’re being too nice to me. I’m just not used to it.” Rome replied, “I’ll tell you what you could do if that bothers you, you can get on a plane and go to Seattle.” The conversation then turned to the league-owned Hornets winning the NBA Draft Lottery, which Rome noted produced the “usual round of speculation that maybe the lottery was fixed.”
Rome: “I know you appreciate a good conspiracy theory as much as the next guy. Was the fix in for the lottery?”
Stern: “I have two answers for that. I’ll give you the easy one: No. And a statement: Shame on you for asking.”
Rome: “I understand why you would say that to me, and I wanted to preface it by saying it respectfully. I think it’s my job to ask because I think people wonder.”
Stern, sounding perturbed: “No, it’s ridiculous, but that’s okay.”
Rome: “I know that you think it’s ridiculous. But I don’t think the question is ridiculous, because I know people think that. ... I’m not saying that I do, but I think it’s fair to ask you that.”
Stern: “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?”
Rome: “I don’t know if that’s fair.”
Stern: “Why is that?”
Rome: “Because I think that -- and I know you read your e-mails and I’m sure you follow things virally on Twitter -- people really do think it, whether it’s fair or not.”
Stern: “Well, they think it because of people like you.”
After debating the merits of the issue for several minutes, Rome said he can “understand why you’re frustrated" by that line of questioning.
Rome: "I would hope that you would not hold that against me.”
Stern: “I wouldn’t hold out it against you. You and I have been into more contentious discussions than that.”
Rome: “I don’t know. I’d put that one right up there.”
Stern: “Well, it’s good copy, and you do things sometimes for cheap thrills.”
Rome: “I did not do that for a cheap thrill, that’s not what that was.”
Stern: “Well, it sounded like it.”
Rome: “I got no thrill out of that.”
Stern: “It’s a cheap trick.”
Rome: “No, flopping is a cheap trick.”
Stern: “No, no. But listen, you’ve been successful in making a career out of it and I keep coming on.”
Rome, becoming increasingly upset: “Making a career out of what, though? Commissioner, I take great offense to that. Making a career of what?”
Stern: “Are you taking offense?”
Rome: “Now I am.”
Stern: “You spend your time taking on the world and now Jim Rome is pouting. I love it.”
Rome: “I’m not pouting. I take offense.”
Stern: "You want to hang up on me?”
Rome: "I can't hang up on you because we're running out of time. I would never hang up on you."
Stern: "Listen, I gotta go call somebody important like Stephen A. Smith now. He’s up next.”
Rome: “Alright, you go make that call and I’ll go talk to somebody else too myself. Alright Commissioner, have a nice day.”
Following the interview, Rome told his audience, “I would have said to you until today that he and I actually had a level of admiration and respect for one another.” Rome: “I think the guy’s heard it so many times that he just snapped. Or maybe he objected to the way I asked the question. I really don’t know. I don’t think the fix was in. ... A lot of time people that I interview confuse me asking a question with me thinking that’s the answer” (“The Jim Rome Show,” 6/13).
INITIAL REACTION: Rome said of Stern's "beating your wife” comment, “It was a rhetorical device. A lot of people don’t know that phrase, so they didn’t know where he was going. I understood it and I didn’t take great offense to it. I didn’t agree with it, but the fact of the matter is I felt that my question was direct and not a loaded question, so I didn’t think that analogy was appropriate.” Yahoo Sports’ Kelly Dwyer said, “I don’t care if it’s an old joke. I don’t care if it’s an old anecdote, the old loaded question. You don’t make a joke about that. … You don’t make a joke about domestic violence.” CBSSports.com’s Jason La Canfora said of the “fixed lottery” question, “I think there are a lot of PR people at the league probably making a lot of money who have given him a way to handle this situation, and he went off script and went off the rails. I’m sure he probably regrets it because he came off as very petty” (“Rome,” CBS Sports Network, 6/13).
LINE OF QUESTIONING: USA TODAY’s Mike Foss writes Stern took the show “down an uncomfortable road” when he “fired a particularly awkward shot” at Rome. NBA Senior VP/Marketing Communications Mike Bass said of Stern's reply, "What it is, is a classic unanswerable question, same as the one the Commissioner was asked." Foss: “Regardless, it was a poor comeback that failed to satisfy the question -- loaded or otherwise” (USA TODAY, 6/14). YAHOO SPORTS’ Dan Devine wrote while Stern's comment was “a bit of lawyerspeak," the interview will “only make it look more like his grip on the wheel's loosened and that he's not making the best decisions anymore” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 6/13). In Houston, David Barron wrote, “In retrospect, Rome probably would have been better served by dropping the topic and moving on” (CHRON.com, 6/13). CBSSPORTS.com’s Matt Moore wrote if Stern “wanted the issue to go away, he's done the exact opposite with his responses to it” (CBSSPORTS.com, 6/13). SI.com’s Zach Lowe wrote, “With apologies to Rome … he’s asking a dumb question” (SI.com, 6/13).