Union chief says suspended Crawford would be welcomed back

Updated: May 19, 2007, 3:18 PM ET
Associated Press

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- NBA union chief Billy Hunter said that the players would support the reinstatement of referee Joey Crawford, who was suspended after he was accused of trying to pick a fight with Tim Duncan during a game.

"We hated to see Joey get canned," Hunter told a sports lawyers' convention on Saturday. "I think in all probability Joey will be back. We've expressed our willingness to work with him."

Crawford ejected Duncan from a game last month after calling a second technical foul on the Spurs star while he was laughing on the bench. Duncan said Crawford looked at him and said, "Do you want to fight?"

NBA commissioner David Stern suspended Crawford, who has worked more postseason games than any active ref at least through the NBA finals. Crawford was cited for "improper conduct" and "inappropriate comments made to Duncan during the game."

Stern said Crawford's actions "failed to meet the standards of professionalism and game management we expect of NBA referees."

Crawford said Duncan swore at him.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press