The National Basketball Referees Association is aggressively asserting that the NBA is allowing Mark Cuban an outsize influence on how the game is officiated.
The NBRA is charging Cuban with pursuing a competitive advantage for his team “via threats and intimidation” toward game referees.
The Vertical obtained a series of memorandums distributed recently among the league’s 64 referees – including correspondences between the NBRA and NBA – that describe over a year of discord between the referees and league office, largely centered on Cuban.
In a recent letter to Byron Spruell, the NBA’s president of league operations, NBRA general counsel Lee Seham outlined what the union considers to be a lengthy pattern of documented violations by Cuban of the NBA constitution and “undue influence of the league’s management of its officials.”
“We consider the threat to the integrity of NBA basketball presented by Mr. Cuban’s misconduct to be real and growing,” Seham wrote on Dec. 9.
In response to the league rejecting Seham’s premise that Cuban holds an “inappropriate influence” over referee employment decisions, the union’s general counsel responded: “No other owner has communicated to our members with such force that he exercises control over their careers. He has communicated that he played a pivotal role in the termination of Kevin Fehr, a referee who met league performance standards. He has communicated to an NBRA board member, during contract negotiations, that the referees would continue to be at-will employees. He has told a referee, during a game, that he follows that referee’s game reports.”
Cuban responded to the accusations.
“To suggest I have influence is to suggest that the NBA officials can be influenced,” Cuban told The Vertical in an email. “If an official can be influenced by pressure from anyone, they should not be in the NBA. I don’t believe they can be influenced. As far as my influence on employment, several years ago I sent a list to the NBA of officials who had been NBA officials for more than a decade and never made the playoffs.
“I asked why we weren’t bringing in better officials than those who weren’t able to crack the top half of officials. [I think it’s 37 who get selected as playoff refs.] I also asked if being an NBA official was a lifetime job and at what point do we recognize that there is someone else out there who can do a better job? I did this knowing that any terminated refs could receive substantial pensions. As far as anything else, I’ve been the same way since I bought the team and have no reason to change.”