How's Your Transparency Going?

October, 22, 2007
10/22/07
11:36
AM ET

Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News wrote yesterday:

In the biggest fallout from the Tim Donaghy betting scandal to date, six NBA refs have been disciplined by the league for breaking its strict, if unrealistic, anti-gambling rules.

Sources say that the six, whose identities remain unknown, were busted for infractions as minor as frequenting casinos. The refs' links to gambling came as a result of the league's investigation into its 60-man staff after the federal case against Donaghy.

While it's no crime for players, coaches, GMs or owners to hit the poker tables in the high-stakes VIP rooms of Las Vegas, refs are forbidden from frequenting casinos or engaging in any gambling, even if it's legal. The six refs' infractions in no way came close to resembling the crimes Donaghy committed, sources said.

"Nobody's getting suspended," said a source. "They were reprimanded and punished, but nobody lost their job."

The NBA was not specific about the infractions or the punishments.

Lawrence seems to feel like he has NBA sources on this one.

But league spokesman Tim Frank is saying there is no truth to it. ESPN.com News services:

The NBA on Sunday denied a New York Daily News report that the league has disciplined six referees for violating anti-gambling rules for officials.

The league's internal review of its entire officiating program in the wake of the Tim Donaghy scandal -- which is being conducted by former federal prosecutor Lawrence Pedowitz -- is not complete yet, according to league spokesman Tim Frank.

"There is no truth to this report," Frank said. "The commissioner has made it clear that we will have details to share once the review is completed."

NBA commissioner David Stern acknowledged earlier this month at a news conference in London that the internal review has indeed unearthed league policy violations from referees besides Donaghy. But the resultant penalties are not expected to be issued until the review is finished.

"There were some violations," Stern said. "But they are not hanging crimes."

We were promised transparency throughout this process. The opposite of transparency is saying, essentially "well, we know the truth. But you don't get to know the truth. At least not now."

Which is what is happening now.

The result is confusion, and the suspicion that the league is not being totally straight with us. Which is not the way to build trust.

The NBA must know the status here. David Stern has already acknowledged some referees were found to have commited gambling offenses of various kinds. We can assume some kind of punishment either has occured or will occur. If we are to hear that Mitch Lawrence's version of events is wrong -- which it may well be, I have no idea -- it would only be convincing to me if the denial came along with some account of what did happen. X referees involved, discussions of punishment ongoing and expected before the season ... that kind of thing.

In the meantime, we're told that we have to wait for the internal review before discussing specifics. But wait! How come David Stern gets to cite that report? The same ESPN.com News Services account I quoted from above also says "On July 24, Stern called the disgraced Donaghy a 'rogue, isolated criminal,' then said in London that the review has confirmed that."

If the review has established, essentially, the innocence of every NBA referee, how can it not be far enough along to tell us how many are getting in trouble for minor gambling infractions?

Please explain ...

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