League, union not interested in meeting about conflict

Updated: December 20, 2006, 9:50 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

NBA referees are ready to step into the midst of the brawl.

According to a USA Today report on Wednesday, the National Basketball Referees Association has proposed a three-way conflict-resolution summit among the league, the players and officials in the wake of Saturday's brawl between the New York Knicks and Denver Nuggets.

Martin Luther King III, the oldest son of Martin Luther King Jr., has accepted the group's invitation to moderate the meetings.

Referee spokesman Lamell McMorri sent a letter to commissioner David Stern and players union executive director Billy Hunter proposing the meeting and suggesting it happen during All-Star weekend in Las Vegas.

"We want to be proactive and work with other stakeholders so we can figure out how to deal with this issue," McMorris said. "I commend the NBA for steps taken. But we have to take additional steps. It's one thing to fine and suspend.

"How do we address the culture so a message is sent to fans that it's OK to bring their kids to games? We are addressing this issue so the culture is changed, and this behavior isn't acceptable."

Both the union and league responded negatively to the proposal.

"I don't know if a summit is required," Hunter said. "I don't think it's that much of an issue. My contention is referees pretty much call the game the way it's dictated by the league. Any resolution is between the league and the union. Referees are an appendage of the league."

NBA spokesman Tim Frank was in interestingly in agreement with the union and questioned McMorri's motives.

"We agree with Billy Hunter that such a meeting is unnecessary," Frank said. "We're also skeptical of Mr. McMorris' real motives here in as much as he went public with this supposed offer just hours after making it. But this is consistent with the sort of grandstanding we've seen from him in the past."