There’s some hub-bub about NBA officiating these days, huh? Seems it offers so much intrigue that Ralph Nader is getting involved. Guess this is, at its heart, a consumer advocacy issue and not a presidential issue.
Six years ago, to the month, Nader called for changes of the officiating process in a letter to David Stern. In the letter, Nader addressed several issues about the officiating of Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals that resulted in a controversial Lakers victory over then-rival Sacramento. The Kings seemed to have a strong case for taking that game, but tons of calls flooded in against the Kings and the Lakers stole the game in what ended up being a run to the Finals for the Lakers back in 2002. Among the concerns addressed by Nader was Stern’s total control and absolute authority which called for a gag order of NBA players, coaches and other officials.
The real problem is the enforced silence by Stern. According to Nader, this is a sign of a “corporate dictatorship” and with players facing heavy fines for speaking out, there is little incentive to take a stand. Yet, doesn’t this just all confirm that there is in fact some kind of conspiracy?
In light of the Tim Donaghy scandal, this all becomes a pertinent issue for the NBA – although I am not so sure it is as important an issue to build a presidential ticket with. Donaghy has claimed – and testified – that referees have influenced games in 2002 and in 2005. This is something that every NBA fan proclaims from time to time – that the NBA is just trying to increase revenue by making some calls to create an extra game or two. Sure, the revenue from a 7 game series is higher than a 5 game series, but would the NBA truly risk every shred of credibility simply to make some extra money?
You bet they would. And Donaghy is a microcosm of that venture.
Sure, Donaghy had some issues. Gambling, etc. But that doesn’t excuse them. Can the NBA, as a corporation, be as dysfunctional? We may not want to believe it, but our NBA “heroes” have their flaws. Just ask Charles Barkley or even Michael Jordan himself. So you can bet (ah…love a pun) on it that the NBA, somewhere deep in its belly, has some flawed individuals pulling the strings.
What Nader proposes – and I am sure he is not the first to come to this conclusion so don’t go run out and vote for him – is sane. It is almost like another corporation we may all be familiar with: the United States Constitution. It wasn’t set in place because there was corruption, it was set in place because the founding fathers understood human nature which is suspect to corruption, no matter how lofty one’s character may be.
To not face reproach is to only exacerbate the situation. To shut down criticism is to allow corruption to fester, not push it away. Stern’s inability to allow his league to be open to public opinion is what is creating this mess. Stern is a control freak, and the NBA officials and owners allow it because it has made them money. The question now is, was it always the policy of the NBA to increase its coffers at the expense of its own rules? The treasury swells with tainted money and the product itself will become less and less esteemed. This mess should be cleaned up and could be cleaned up if Stern only heeded the words of Nader and other well-intentioned voices.
And if you think this is over and just relegated to one bad seed, then you are blind. If you read Donaghy’s testimony you will see validated what many fans have been saying for years. You will also see that this is not one man’s fall, but rather a group effort that has become too lax in enforcing its own laws.
My, how strong the lessons could be for us all if we simply observe this process.