The National Basketball Association has found a big percentage of referees violated its no-gambling rule, but will move to change the rules rather than punish the officials, commissioner David Stern said Thursday.
"The reality is that about half of our referees have told us they have been into casinos over the last year, and I've decided that they will not be disciplined for that because I think the rule is overly broad," Stern said.
Stern said the absolute ban on gambling by NBA officials was written when the only casinos in the US were in Las Vegas and when such common wagering opportunities as state lotteries largely didn't exist.
Not only was the rule too wide ranging, it was erratically enforced, Stern said.
As a result, Stern said, "It's not the right thing to do to slap these guys on the wrist."
Instead the league will rewrite the rules, and enforce them more rigorously so that officials are clear on what's allowed.
The NBA launched its review of gambling by officials in the wake of Tim Donaghy's admission that he bet on games in which he was officiating.
Donaghy is awaiting sentencing on federal charges, but Stern said the league hadn't found any evidence that any other officials engaged in similar behavior.
"The current state of the record is that Mr. Donaghy acted alone," Stern said. "No other referees bet on NBA games."
Stern was quick to defend the league's officials in the wake of the Donaghy affair.
"Donaghy is a criminal who did a bad thing, and there's an entire set of questions with respect to gambling and the like," Stern said.
"But let's not conflate that with the question of the competence of our officials."
Stern said the NBA will take steps to prevent any future cases like Donaghy's.
The league plans to announce referees for specific games in the morning, rather than 90 minutes before tip-off, so that there is no opportunity to leak privileged information, the AFP reports.
The commissioner also said he'll reserve judgment on the Knicks and Thomas after a jury found that the team's parent company, Cablevision Systems Corp., and owner James Dolan must pay $11.6 million after losing a sexual-harassment lawsuit by a female former team executive.
After the three-week trial in Manhattan Federal Court, Dolan and Thomas said they would appeal, Bloomberg reports.
“I have the power to do certain things, I don't have anything in mind, I don't know whether I will do anything, but pending appeal and further analysis of the situation, nothing has changed,'' Stern said.
“What went on there is not without contest.”