When I think about the referee scandal in the NBA I don’t think too much about the league front office, or the players involved, or even the referee involved. When I do think about the referee involved I get angry but not because he is cheating the average basketball game fan out of an honest outcome to a game or playoff series. I get angry at the referee because I think about all of those kids that practice everyday on playgrounds and in housing projects all over the country dreaming of the day that they may play in the NBA. I think about that kid that has a very poor family but he has major basketball skills and he wants to use those skills to someday get himself and his family out of poverty. What about that kid? Whether those involved in professional sports want to be role models or not the simple fact is that they are role models. It is unfathomable for a young child to think that an NBA referee is cheating. To a young child with dreams of NBA stardom the referee is the law in his world and when that law turns out to be crooked then all sorts of other problems can pop up and then the kid is in a crisis.
When you become part of a professional sports league you are put in a spotlight for millions of people to see. Even if you are not an athlete you are still regarded with a certain level of awe by millions as part of a professional sports figure and professional sports officials hold a special place in people’s minds whether they realize it or not. Many sports fans love to blame their team’s loss on the lousy officiating and most sports fans wonder out loud why the league would continue to hire blind people to referee games. Many people would also joke that the referee was born in the town that the opponents came from so he must be a fan of that team and that is why the calls went against your team. Some will even go so far as to joke that the referees are on the take and getting money to throw games. Everyone has a good laugh and then they start to think about the next game. But now that the potential for crooked referees is a reality that throws everything in professional sports off balance and now the NBA has what could potentially be the biggest public relations disaster in professional sports history. It is not clear how the NBA will handle this and how in the world they will recover from this but they are working on it.
When you have a major brawl that includes fans at a basketball game then you get the reputation of having some thugs in your league. You fine and suspend players and possibly even press charges against fans. But in the end a brawl kind of fades into the distance and becomes part of the game’s history. A scandal that includes at least one crooked referee and potentially more along with crooked players goes right to the core of the NBA and may be something the league never recovers from completely.