Officials will be subject to 'appropriate discipline'

Updated: February 28, 2004, 7:52 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

NBA commissioner David Stern has expressed his disappointment with the NBA officials who staged a visible protest of the suspension of referee Michael Henderson at Friday night's games.

NBA referees turned their jerseys inside-out and wore No. 62 -- the number assigned to a disciplined colleague.

"Last night's display was woefully inconsistent with the professionalism with which NBA officials normally conduct themselves," Stern said in a statement on Saturday. "There is nothing more to say at this time."

The league promised more punishment for the referees showing support for Henderson.

The NBA released a statement from deputy commissioner Russ Granik on Friday saying any referees taking part in the protest "will be subject to appropriate discipline."

Referees
Refs Scott Foster (l) and Mike Callahan wear the number 62 during the Rockets-Blazers game.

The officials were responding to Michael Henderson's being taken off three job assignments and summoned to the league office. Henderson's bad call at the end of Wednesday night's Lakers-Nuggets game was publicly acknowledged Thursday by the NBA.

"An unprecedented job action was taken against one of their colleagues, so an unprecedented response was necessary," said Lamell McMorris, a spokesman and negotiator for the National Basketball Referees Association.

Referees at all 10 NBA games Friday night were expected to take part in the protest, although officials Eddie F. Rush and Nolan Fine worked the Grizzlies-Bucks game in Milwaukee and did not. The third member of their crew, Rodney Mott, wore his shirt inside out with No. 62 magic-markered on the back.

McMorris said Rush and Fine were "intimidated" by refereeing supervisor Ronnie Nunn.

"From what I understand it was typical bullying tactics by the NBA. Ronnie Nunn came in and threatened them, told them if they wore their shirts inside-out they'd be fired," McMorris said.

NBA vice president Stu Jackson did not return a call seeking comment on McMorris' allegation.

Henderson, in his second season as an NBA official, mistakenly whistled a shot clock violation after an attempt by Denver's Andre Miller brushed the rim and was rebounded by a teammate.

The officials huddled and ruled it an inadvertent whistle, resulting in a jump ball. The Lakers won the tip and made the game-winning shot with 3.2 seconds left.

"This was an unfortunate call at a highly critical point in the game, and we very much regret the error," NBA vice president Stu Jackson said his statement Thursday. He was not immediately available for comment Friday night.

McMorris said Henderson's three-game punishment was unprecedented.

"It's inconsistent with the performance evaluation standards that the league introduced to initiate communication between supervisors and referees," McMorris said. "This has never occurred for a bad call."

McMorris told SportsTicker he had spoken with Henderson and categorized his mood as "upset, as well as the entire NBRA is upset. He's more hurt than anything."

McMorris has a meeting with the NBA tentatively scheduled for Tuesday morning at the league's offices in New York. Henderson will be represented by McMorris as well as outside counsel.

The referees are currently in the final season of their five-year collective bargaining agreement with the NBA.

"They're in it together. They've got pride," Clippers forward Elton Brand said of the protest. "I guess they're trying to get their point across."

Information from The Associated Press and SportsTicker was used in this report.