The Tim Donaghy scandal provided a face to the long-held suspicions by fans that referees held biases against their teams, and favored star power over fairness. You could hear Donaghy jokes throughout the season and especially during the playoffs, but it certainly put the referees under much more scrutiny.
The most critical part of the report Larry Pedowitz released on Thursday are his recommendations to the league to make it more transparent with regards its officiating program and helping to diminish the impression that league and its officials are "in the tank" for certain stars and teams.
He first suggested rule changes, which the league has since adopted; improvement of the compliance function; increased monitoring of games for suspicious activity; and finally, Pedowitz pleaded for increased efforts to eliminate the perception fo bias and favoritism.
1. Rules Changes
To "minimize the risk of disclosure of confidential League information to gamblers" the league has made referee assignments public on the morning of the game and prohibited referees from discussing with trainers and other team employees the condition of any player.
At the league's board of governors meeting on April 18, the league also stenghtenedd and clarified the ban on gambling on NBA games and prohibited sharing confidential information with individuals outside the NBA. Pedowitz also proposed that the rules apply to players.
2. Improvement of Compliance Function
The league has since reorganized its referee program by hiring retired Army Major General Ronald L. Johnson to oversee the league's officials program. It will have a "hotline" this season for league and team employees to "anonymously raise questions and report problems concerning gambling and game integrity issues." He is also proposing mandatory gambling education for players.
3. Increased Monitoring of Games for Suspicious Activity
"The League has arranged to obtain information on a regular basis from individuals
and entities involved in the gambling business about unusual movements in the betting lines and rumors concerning confidential NBA information, such as player injuries and referee assignments. Flagging games for the League to investigate may help the League detect gambling or misuse of confidential information."
The league has been collecting data on calls and non-calls for referees since the 2003-04 season, but it has now developed "prototype, proprietary system for screening games in an effort to detect data patterns that warrant further investigation."
Pedowitz also called for an increase of the background checks that were already in place before the Donaghy revelations.
4. Increased Efforts to Eliminate the Perception of Bias and Favoritism
The league will establish a direct line of communication for bias related
complaints from the teams to General Johnson. We suggest that team complaints about
bias be as specific as possible and accompanied by whatever supporting evidence the teams can gather. And, starting with the 2008-2009 playoffs, all team complaints about referee calls during a playoff series, along with the league's response to the complaining team will be posted and made available to both teams to "alleviate any concern that a complaint will lead to special focus on a player or team in a series."
Referees must also identify any off-court contacts with team personnel. Pedowitz also suggested that referees be made available to the public and the media to discuss their job.
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