Thursday, June 19, 2008
Ralph Nader's opinion
below is the complete text of an interview that ran in this week's Sports Illustrated, between Dan Patrick and Ralph Nader:
Dan Patrick: How do you feel about what Tim Donaghy has said about referees manipulating results?
Ralph Nader: The question is his credibility. Obviously he has a self-interest after pleading guilty to his contacts with gamblers. But he's not the only one to raise that. In the 2002 series between the L.A. Lakers and the Sacramento Kings, it's clear that the officials favored the Lakers, wanting a seventh game. And David Stern whitewashed it after a lot of people—from Michael Wilbon, of The Washington Post, to me—complained. The NBA is really a giant corporate dictatorship. And the players are fined substantially simply for exercising their rights of free speech. It's in that context that we have to raise these issues.
DP: Can a sport police itself?
RN: I don't think in this instance that David Stern and the NBA even want to police themselves.
DP: In 2002 you wrote a letter to the commissioner. What response did you get?
RN: After I wrote the letter, I called him up and I had a conversation with him. He was cordial but imperious. He indicated that they would review games. And of course, it was a whitewash. Nobody admitted mistakes.
DP: Why would the commissioner expose himself to the possibility of fixing games?
RN: Because it doesn't have anything to do with gamblers. If it did, the outside system of criminal law would come in. But Stern's got an autocratic domain. And because the referees are protected by David Stern, there's no accountability. And that doesn't mean [the commissioner's office] is directly involved. It means that referees who are favorites of the boss know what the boss would like to see.
DP: Are you a Kings fan?
RN: I like the underdogs. And somebody may say, given all that's going on in the world, this is pretty minor stuff. But this is a kind of sanctuary for Americans, professional sports. They want to have one area of their lives where they can respect what's going on. And I'm afraid that this kind of officiating ruptures that trust.
Posted by Jon Abbey at 7:26 PM