Tim Donaghy may accomplish what all the drug, race and hip-hop scandals could not: He may crush the NBA. That’s why Commissioner David Stern, against the Feds’ wishes, hit the send button in the late afternoon and told us: “no amount of effort, time or personnel is being spared to assist in this investigation, to bring to justice an individual who has betrayed the most sacred trust in professional sports, and to take the necessary steps to protect against this ever happening again.”
In short, Donaghy, a 13-year NBA referree, is being investigated for possibly betting on NBA games, possibly games in which he officiated, over the the last two seasons (Donaghy called 131 regular season and 20 playoff games during that period). He is also alleged to have ties with the mob.
Not surprisingly, the 40-year-old resigned for his job recently when the investigation came to light.
Betting is the cancer of sports. No, it’s the bullet to the brain. Or it can be. Stern’s early and unequivocal reaction is a solid first step in damage control, but it won’t likely eliminate it. Already, reporters are investigating each of the games Donaghy officiated, looking for signs of tainted calls. Next season any questionable call will be scrutinized by fans, coaches and players with a new skeptical eye. In no time, someone will yell to an an official: Hey Donaghy!!”
Stern says there will be a press conference next week. What can the league do? Announce immediate and mandatory polygraph tests for all officials – as much as three times a year. If any official balks, well, dismissal might not be too harsh, considering what is at stake.