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Donaghy Investigation Highlights Issue of Referee Bias

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I was sent an email with the link to the video highlights of this year’s Sun-Spurs playoff series Game 3. The premise of the video is that Tim Donaghy fixed the series so the Spurs would at least have an advantage or win. Though I did not see a video about it, a better example would be the horrible officiating of the Jazz-Spurs series Game 4. The missed calls, some by Donaghy and some by the other refs, made me think if there is still some objectivity that we could expect from these referees.

In NBA and in other professional leagues, a lack of familiarity with the players under trial during each game isn’t possible. Essentially, the same referees and players are participating in the same games every year. Naturally, trend develops and refs develop their biases to or against particular players or teams.

As an example, watch a few games of Rasheed Wallace. You’ll notice that he gets called for technical fouls more quickly and more often than other players. In one game, the referee was upset at the way Wallace looked at him. Within minutes of each other, two technical fouls were called on Wallace and he was out of the game.

On the other hand, Manu Ginobili placed himself as a pitiful player and seems to have the refs watching over him. There were a lot of phantom fouls called against the defending players who are on Ginobili when he makes a careless move to shoot the basket and he misses. I’m wondering how he got preferential treatment.

Recent studies that were released by statisticians show that white referees are partial to calling fouls on black players than on white ones. The NBA denies this claim but the results of the study are an example of the potential that the referee comes to every game that he calls with an outlook that creates some bias. There is no MLB, NBA, NCAA or other referee who will not carry to the game a perception that will influence how he will call the game.

Regarding Donaghy’s situation, the bias has upped one level. Since his indictment, there had been claims that there are other players involved in betting on the games which they have influence over including its players. The NBA is reputed to have manipulated that the competition for the interest of profit and marketing. If the betting scandal is prolific, fans who are like me will have reasons to think we should just watch professional wrestling.

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