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Friday, July 27, 2007
 
Early Signs of Congressional Dissatisfaction with David Stern's Response to Scandal

U.S. Congressman Bobby Rush (Democrat-Illinois), who is chairman of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection, has formally requested that NBA commissioner David Stern meet with him to discuss how the NBA manages its operations, particularly in the context of the Tim Donaghy betting scandal. Perhaps based on whether Stern agrees to meet with him and how well that meeting goes, Rush makes clear that he may also call congressional hearings to examine NBA management and its role in the scandal. In a letter to Stern, Rush writes:
If the allegations prove true, this could be one of the most damaging scandals in the history of American sports. Unfortunately, fairly or not, the NBA, more than any other professional sport, has been consistently dogged with allegations that league referees needlessly affect the outcomes of games by making bad calls.
Rush's reaction reflects the same disappointment that many of us had to Stern's press conference on Tuesday, when he paradoxically announced that while the NBA would conduct a thorough internal review, the problem was completely limited to Donaghy. As I wrote for ESPN.com yesterday, how can the NBA conduct a thorough review when the Commissioner has already established its conclusion?

Rush's request also highlights how Stern and many observers are likely missing the forest for a lone tree when they focus all of their attention on Donaghy's apparent bad choices. With humility and honesty, the NBA should also examine
to what extent its own policies and practices enabled a situation in which Donaghy could engage in wrongdoing. Given Stern's comments on Tuesday, it doesn't appear that he is willing or perhaps even capable to conduct such an examination, which is why I argued that the NBA should instead hire an independent investigation agency or appoint an independent commission. For the NBA, either option would certainly beat Congress undertaking a highly-publicized, potentially embarrassing public query, which may garner even more attention that Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro received in their less than glorious Congressional moment two years ago.





9 Comments:

Michael,

As much as I would like see an in depth investigation of this matter (probably more in depth than the NBA tops would ever want to get near), I cringe as yet again politicians feel that this is something that the must get involved in.

I was against the congressional baseball hearings (yes I'm a longtime Cardinals fan and hated seeing Big Mac up there), and I really don't think that politicians is the solution to this NBA problem.

As you have noted, the NBA needs to hire outside investigators to get to the problem here. Maybe this will put pressure on Stern and the boys to actually take a serious look into this, but I cant help thinking that this is some form of opportunism on the part of the politicians and not in the best interest of the game. The NBA over the past 10 years has made sport fans like me turn to college hoops for our yearly basketball fix (go Gators...again....), and as you noted, this will probably lead to public embarrasment for the NBA, not a solution to the problem.


Thanks for the update.

Blogger Jimmy H -- 7/26/2007 11:15 PM  


I disagree that this is an issue that, substantively, is beyond congressional interest. The NBA is a major American social/cultural institution. It has (or at least is believed to have) significant economic and social impact on the public. It is subject to certain federal laws. And there may have been misconduct that violates federal law or that arguably calls for increased federal regulation. Congressional interest is as appropriate here as it would be if, for example, there had been equivalent misconduct with respect to all the major casinos in Las Vegas and on Indian reservations.

My objection to the proposed investigation instead is a matter of competence: Congress simply is not good at conducting these investigations. Hearings become little more than opportunities for political grandstanding and showmanship. Members want to make speeches (often about issues of interest to the member but only tangentially related to the subject of the hearing). Many members have no ability (or interest) in asking questions designed to elicit meaningful answers or responses. Anyone with real information likely also is in real jeopardy, and thus likely will assert a privilege, resulting in the over-granting of immunity.

If the hearings occur, I expect them to make great theatre, played out over and over on "Outside the Lines." But it will accomplish nothing meaningful.

Blogger Howard Wasserman -- 7/27/2007 8:14 AM  


David Stern's response to this scandal has been wholly underwhelming and will ultimately expose his dangerous propensity to pre-judge situations and verdicts.

In recent years, Stern has shown a repeated willingness to advocate league edicts and positions that fly in the face of the facts and smack of hypocrisy. For instance, he campaigned vigourously to exclude high schoolers from the NBA draft even when no quantifiable data showed that they were less successful than college grads, he has waged a personal war with Allen Iverson over his off-the-court conduct and image even though he has been a relatively good citizen, he instituted a dress code for players simply because he thought it created a bad image even though the NBA was and still is based on the hip-hop culture and now he has claimed that Donaghy's betting on games is an "isolated incident" without completing an investigation.

Stern has been a tireless promoter of the league but nothing in his recent history suggests that he is willing and able to investigate his own sport without a media-friendly resolution already in hand. While Congressional hearings may not be desirable for the reasons jimmy h has outlined, in this case I can see a reason for Congress to strongly compel Stern (via threats of Congressional hearings) to hire an independent investigator à la Jim Dowd.

Anonymous Jason Chung -- 7/27/2007 11:14 AM  


Your comment that David Stern has already bounded the internal NBA investigation and drawn at least some of its conclusions is spot on.

David Stern is a lawyer; that is how he began his career with the NBA. In his news conference, he strayed from his clearly rehearsed talking points and referred to Tim Donaghy as a "rogue isolated criminal". Excuse me, Mr. Stern, but until due process has run its course, Tim Donaghy is not yet a criminal.

Now if David Stern is driving the bus with regard to this internal investigation - and who would believe that he will not be the driver? - then one conclusion almost has to be that Tim Donaghy acted alone in a determined way to confound the geniuses who run NBA Security to further Donaghy's venal and criminal intents.

If that's not one of the conclusions, then David Stern will have to hold another news conference sometime in the future and tell everyone he was wrong when he called Donaghy a rogue isolated criminal in July 2007. The chances of him doing that are vanishingly small...

Anonymous The Sports Curmudgeon -- 7/27/2007 1:46 PM  


The NBA has significant economic and social impact on the public and is subject to certain federal laws. And there may have been misconduct that violates federal law or that arguably calls for increased federal regulation. Congressional interest is as appropriate here as it would be if, for example, there had been equivalent misconduct with respect to all the major casinos in Las Vegas and on Indian reservations.

My objection to the proposed investigation instead is a matter of competence: Congress simply is not good at conducting these investigations. Hearings become little more than opportunities for political grandstanding and showmanship. Members want to make speeches (often about issues of interest to the member but only tangentially related to theodoros plakadopoulos the subject of the hearing). Many members have no ability (or interest) in asking questions tplay designed to elicit meaningful answers or responses. Anyone with real information likely also is in real jeopardy, and thus likely will assert nikos a privilege, resulting in the over-granting of immunity.If the hearings occur, I expect them to make great theatre, played out over and over on "Outside the Lines." But it will just be a big circus.

Anonymous Sugar Ray -- 7/29/2007 9:55 PM  


Congress should absolutely not be involved. The Baseball hearings were a joke, and as one commenter noted, could only be described as 'great theatre.'

Regardless of what we sports fans may think, American sports do not have an enormous impact on our economy or our lives. Thus, Congress has no place here.

Let the Congress do what we expect them to do - debate & make laws in the best interest of the people. Keep them out of our stadiums, arenas and fields.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 7/29/2007 10:40 PM  


David Stern better come correct fast because the referee gambling scandal is already spreading right before his eyes. Recently, the mob moved in on Antoine Walker of the Miami Heat and Eddy Curry of the New York Knicks. Both of these players were victimized over the weekend by 'random' home invasions where cars, cash, and jewelry were taken. Thank God no one was hurt.

Why are these occurrences connected to the referee gambling scandal? Note the following pieces of evidence:

A) The referee in question was under the thumb of the Chicago based Gambino crime family;

B) A considerable percentage of the games that he worked over his 13-year career involved the Knicks, the Heat, or both (see Covers.com for proof of this fact);

C) Both Antoine Walker and Eddie Curry are from Chicago and may have mob ties independent of the referee's, e.g. they may have been mob guys to start with;

D) The home invasions that the players endured were about the mob taking back the spoils from the point-shaving that's been going on between these players and teams for years;

E) The last thing that mob wants to do is hurt these players because they will undoubtedly want to use them again later in future point-shaving schemes;

F) The referee in question worked a recent game between these teams where the Knicks pulled off an unlikely victory and 'surprisingly' beat the point spread. Miraculously the Knicks shot 39 free throws and the Heat shot only 6 in the whole game (see Covers.com);

G) Expect Dwayne Wade to wind up being involved in some way - maybe he better upgrade his home security system. D Wade is from Chicago, gets an awful lot of 'phantom calls' from the refs in general, and is in a great position to shave points because he gets a lot of calls and he usually has the ball in his hands at the end of games;

H) Isaiah Thomas, coach of the Knicks, is an addicted gambler who also has been a subject of whispering campaigns about potential mob ties. Witness his perpetual poker debts all over Detroit, New York, Chicago, and Vegas, not to mention his phantom throwaway pass on an in-bound play against the Celtics in 1987 (?). He literally handed the ball to Larry Bird to the amazement of all in attendance and the Pistons went on to lose. Many think Isaiah won big anyway because of the gambling payoff that he got after that season.

I) Don’t forget that even the great Michael Jordan fell victim to the Chicago mob because of his addiction to poker and gambling on his less than average golf skills. Michael and his dad often lost bets at both pursuits and refused to pay off their debts until mobsters executed a contract on his father. After that, Mike belonged to the Chicago mob lock, stock, and (gun) barrel. In fact a whole lot of the seed capital for his sports apparel business and his partially NBA franchise ownership came from the Chicago mob. Mike is basically a front for 'Tony Soprano'. As a result Mike had to give in to the gamblers who wanted him to throw a Championship series or two so that they could make big money. Instead, Mike ended up doing the next best thing; he decided to pretend to play pro baseball for two years instead. Even though, he initially said that he was retiring from the NBA to spend more time with his family. Yeah, right! He and Juanita were already on the outs by then because of all of the time and money that Mike was spending on his Caucasian and Asian mistresses.

Truth or crazy conspiracy? We'll see soon. Stay tuned for the upcoming home invasion of D Wade's crib. And he probably thought that he pulled Hoops and knocked her up all with his 'game'. WRONG! The sent her to him like a two-bit ho so that they would have one more layer control over his career and his life. Yo, D Wade, you know they got pictures....

Blogger Cartrox -- 7/29/2007 10:45 PM  


The warnings served via the home invasion robberies of Antoine Walker (Miami Heat) and Eddie Curry (New York Knicks) are directed to some other members of the point shaving conspiracy who may be running scared due to David Stern's desperate attempts to rid the game of gamblers. Fogitaboutit, Commish! The game is full of ex- and current players who took payoffs in high school and college long before they got to the NBA.

Starting the investigation off by interviewing these guys would not be a bad idea if the Commish is really serious. But he has to know that the mob is not going to relinquish their chokehold on the league and it's players easily. And this weekend the mob sent a clear message to the co-conspirators: Keep quiet or else we will come after you!

The situation with Tim Donaghy is the tip of the iceberg. If the Commish just takes the time to connect the dots then he will expose a wide range of players who are on the take. It's amazing that his Chief of Security (an ex-FBI agent) wasn't able to see this one coming. Oh well, I guess he and the Commish were too busy policing the Black NBA players' pre- and post-game jewelry and attire to notice that a significant number of those players and a considerable percentage of the league's white referees are involved in a major, league-wide point shaving conspiracy.

And more often than not, when the Commish connects all of the dots he will undoubtedly notice that the common thread is the players' contact with the Gambino family and other Chicago gamblers by playing, growing up, or living in the Windy City.

The West Coast summer league scuttle-butt is thick with rumors about major Eastern Conference All-Stars who are knee deep in this gambling scandal. Chief among these high profile point-shavers who David Stern knowingly allows to either coach, play, or participate in the ownership of a franchise in the NBA are:

A) Dwayne Wade (Rumor has it that he took payoffs at Marquette just to make ends meet so that he could feed his wife and baby at the time. And know D Wade always has the ball in his hands at the end of games and he always seems to get the calls. This is the perfect recipe for point shaving!);
B) Chris Webber (Witness his famous time out call during the NCAA finals and his proven involvement with a Detroit gambler during high school and college);
C) Jalen Rose (He did all the things that Chris did except call the bone head time out,. Plus he's from Chicago and is rumored to have gotten involved with gambling and the Gambino's back in high school);
D) Isaiah Thomas (Long time addicted poker player, rumor has it that Isaiah, a native Chicagoan, is the Gambino family's recruiter among NBA players, refs, and coaches);
E) Michael Jordan (Long time addicted poker player and golf gambler who often stiffed (Gambino family) mobsters on betting losses. Rumor has it that his dad may have been killed as a result. During the 1990s Mike had the opportunity to be the ultimate point shaver during the NBA Finals. Could it be?)
F) Keyon Dooling (Chicagoan who played with the Miami Heat during the time that the fix was in with Donaghy);
G) Quentin Richardson (Chicagoan and Dooling best friend who played with the Knicks during the time that the fix was in with Donaghy);
H) Reggie Theus (Ex-Chicago Bull and University of Las Vegas player, during the point-shaving, Jerry Tarkanian era, was long rumored to be in the Gambino's pocket during his Bulls career; nobody noticed because they were losers then);
I) Caron Butler (Ex-(?) Crip who came into contact with gamblers and point shaving during his adolsecence in Racine, Wisconsin. Later learned to hone his point-shaving talents at UConn(victs) in the NCAA. Later played for the Miami Heat during the time that the fix was in with Donaghy. Donaghy did a lot of Heat and Knicks games);
J) Juwan Howard (Chicagoan who played wit Jalen and Chris - he and Chris were the best of friends; he and Jalen knew each other from playing in high school and being on the take back then).

If the dish on the West Coast is correct, NBA security is already looking at some or all of these guys in what will become a major rush to exorcise the demons before next season. The list of players’ names that continually come up when you ask off the record about point shaving includes members just every franchise. And the list of referees may include as many as one-third of the current working force if the whispering campaign in Los Angeles can be believed. ABC/ESPN - many of their respective execs live in LA and are presumably privy to the same rumors that are swirling around the courts and locker rooms here - are already bristling at the impact of this scandal. As they say in TVland, stay tuned...

Blogger Cartrox -- 7/30/2007 12:54 AM  


"Let the Congress do what we expect them to do - debate & make laws in the best interest of the people. Keep them out of our stadiums, arenas and fields."

So, the professional leagues would have no problem building their own stadiums, arenas and fields? As long as the public funds these operations I don't see why they can't get involved.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 7/30/2007 12:22 PM  


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