Referee Who Ejected Duncan Is Suspended
Just days before the start of the playoffs, the N.B.A.
indefinitely suspended one of its top referees, Joey Crawford, for
inappropriate behavior during Sunday's San Antonio-Dallas game.
Tim Duncan, who had been whistled earlier for a technical foul,
was ejected by Crawford late in the third quarter for laughing from
the bench after his teammate Fabricio Oberto was called for a foul.
Duncan left the court and muttered an obscenity at Crawford, and
yesterday the N.B.A. fined Duncan $25,000 for doing that.
''Joey Crawford's handling of this situation failed to meet the
standards of professionalism and game management we expect of
N.B.A. referees,'' Commissioner David Stern said yesterday in a
statement. ''Especially in light of similar prior acts by this
official, a significant suspension is warranted. Although Joey is
consistently rated as one of our top referees, he must be held
accountable for his actions on the floor, and we will have further
discussions with him following the season to be sure he understands
After the Spurs' 91-86 loss, Duncan told reporters that he
believed Crawford had a vendetta against him.
''Before he gave me the two technical fouls, he made a call and
I was shaking my head, and he walks down and stares at me,'' Duncan
told The San Antonio News-Express. ''He says, 'Do you want to
fight? Do you want to fight?' I didn't say anything to him there,
Crawford was interviewed by a pool reporter after the game and
said that Duncan had been ''complaining the whole time.''
''And then he went over to the bench and he was over there doing
the same stuff behind our back,'' Crawford added. ''I hit him with
one and he kept going over there, laughing, and I look over there
and he's still complaining. So I threw him out.''
In an interview yesterday on the ESPN program ''Pardon the
Interruption,'' Stern dismissed the notion of a vendetta and said
Crawford did not show remorse when they spoke Monday. Stern also
indicated that Crawford might not want to come back next
''He doesn't think he did anything wrong,'' Stern said.
''Probably, he doesn't wish to work in the N.B.A. anymore. It's our
plan to talk about the future.''
Crawford, in his 31st season as an N.B.A. referee, has been a
fixture, having officiated more playoff games (266) and more N.B.A.
finals games (38) than any other active referee.
Stern was upset that Crawford had not heeded his admonition from
an incident in 2003. Crawford was called into league offices to
discuss how he gave four technical fouls to the Dallas Mavericks in
Game 2 of the Western Conference finals with the Spurs. He had
ejected Don Nelson, who was the Mavericks' coach at the time, for
standing by the scorer's table in apparent frustration, and later
ejected Del Harris, the Mavericks' assistant coach.
Stern considered Crawford's behavior grandstanding and warned
him that he would not tolerate another such incident. Crawford
returned to referee two N.B.A. finals games that year between the
Spurs and the Nets.
''He's been specifically asked by me to change his conduct and
he wasn't able to do it,'' Stern said on ESPN. The suspension,
Stern said, was a result of ''our earlier interaction where Joey
knows our views on, shall I say, his loss of control; you just
can't keep doing that.''
Messages left at the National Basketball Referees Association to
reach Crawford were not returned yesterday. Lamell McMorris, a
spokesman for the association, declined to comment. Duncan and
Spurs officials declined to comment.
Billy Hunter, the executive director of the National Basketball
Players Association, has been critical of the league for giving
referees powers to discipline players' behavior.
''In my view, Joey Crawford clearly went over the line in this
instance and some level of discipline was warranted,'' Hunter said
yesterday in a statement. ''At the same time, I think part of the
problem lies with the new rules regarding technical fouls and the
lack of consistency with which those rules have been applied.''
Crawford was not the first referee the N.B.A. suspended this
Rodney Mott, in his ninth season, was suspended for three games
without pay in January for directing an obscene gesture toward a
fan and using inappropriate language in a game in Portland.
Crawford, with his bald pate and expressive face, is one of the
more conspicuous referees in the game. He is known for his
emotional style and comes from a lineage of high-profile officials.
His brother, Jerry, is an umpire for Major League Baseball. His
father, Shag, was also a major league umpire.
Yesterday, Stern did not consider Crawford's pedigree, but
rather how his behavior affected the image of the league.
The Spurs' Tim Duncan, left, after he was
assessed a technical foul while seated on the bench Sunday. He said
Joey Crawford challenged him to a fight earlier in the game.