Friday, October 10, 2008

On The Tunney Side of the Street #198, Oct. 13, 2008 (

Last month former – and disgraced – National Basketball Association Referee Tim Donaghy began a 15-month prison sentence on felony charges involving wire fraud and transmitting wagering tips through Interstate Commerce to gamblers on NBA games Donaghy refereed. The gamblers were ‘friends’ of Donaghy.(

15 months? “Don’t you mean 15 years (Donaghy is 41)”? Nope! 15 months in a minimum-security Federal Penitentiary in Florida. Not only did Donaghy blemish the game of professional basketball, as well as all sports, more importantly, he damaged the INTEGRITY of officiating – at all levels. (

The “perception” of fans is often that officials “play favorites” – e.g. favorite players (super stars) and/or favorite teams (perennial champions); or that officials call “even-up fouls” in the event that an earlier call may have been called incorrectly. From my 40-year career in officiating, both football and basketball at all levels, trying to “even up” doesn’t work – much like trying to get your sideburns even when shaving! Yet, the perception (of favoritism) exists.

What is more disturbing than the absurd 15-month sentencing, is the accusation by Donaghy’s defense attorneys, as well as his father, that other NBA referees are involved in gambling issues. Gerry Donaghy, Tim’s father who, by the way, was a former college basketball referee, is “angry at the whole NBA” and said his son is “no worse than a lot of other people who should have been helped, not chastised, by the NBA.”

Donaghy Sr. said “there’s at least 10 other guys who are doing things – just as bad.” Gerry fails on a couple of counts: First, the recent NBA 14-month investigation report revealed “no other referee, other than Tim Donaghy, engaged in any illegal activity.” Second, Gerry (the father), who by the way agreed his son deserved the punishment, said the “NBA, especially Commissioner David Stern, should be “helping him (Tim) instead of chastising him’”. My question is: where was the father’s help in raising a son who fell victim to greed, moral and ethical offenses? Whenever we point a finger at someone, we must remember there are 3 pointing back at us.

We can only help and teach our children to do the “right thing.” We cannot ensure they always will. However, an attempt to implicate others in order to reduce the stigma of one’s misdeeds does not live up to the definition of taking responsibility.

Will you step up to take responsibility by doing the right thing?

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