The rising tensions between NBA players and NBA referees has been an ongoing story this season, and according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, both sides met to discuss the situation last night in Los Angeles over All-Star Weekend.
They were able to reach some consensus, including on one seemingly important point: both sides apparently think the league office is doing more harm than good in terms of communication.
The meeting included three players, three referees and officials from both the referees’ union and the players’ union. Among the items agreed on was establishing a direct communication line between the two unions that would not involve the NBA league office to address issues that arise between the sides, the unions announced in a joint statement.
There are procedures involving the league office in place, and those will continue. But there was a concern from the unions that sometimes the league office doesn’t communicate the same information to referees and players, and that was contributing to the divide, sources told ESPN.
Initial reaction: they can just do that? It seems like the league office, and in turn the teams themselves, wouldn’t necessarily enjoy the idea of ongoing communication and strategizing between the two groups of people who are actually on the court during games. That’s a concentration of power over games that has to seem a bit threatening for the league; they escaped the Tim Donaghy controversy relatively unscathed, and obviously nothing here is close to that level of a problem, but optics are everything when it comes to the idea of above-board competition.
Plus, technically, both sides work for the league.
Adam Silver, though, seems very pleased with this turn of events, at least according to the statement Windhorst included:
“I think it’s fantastic and a great statement about this league that these important stakeholders in this case, our players and the officials, think it’s important enough and they have an obligation to the game where they should be sitting down and talking to each other,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Saturday. “Because at the end of the day, I mean, as I’ve said before, I’ve never thought this was just about ratcheting up fines. I think that there’s a larger issue in play here, and almost one that’s a little societal in we owe it to young fans who are watching, we owe it to young people who get enormous satisfaction out of sports, to see that we truly can get along and be respectful and empathetic.
“The fact that these two groups want to sit down with each other and say how can we both do a better job, how can we create a better understanding, is fantastic.”
Of course, Silver doesn’t address the portion wherein the officials and players want to cut the league office further out of their discussions.
This will be interesting to watch going forward, even though the problems both sides have could seemingly be eased with two simple fixes: get fewer calls wrong, and stop complaining about calls so much.