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Stern: Bet probe 'worst situation that I have ever experienced'

7/25/2007 - NBA

NEW YORK -- David Stern blamed a "rogue, isolated
criminal" Tuesday for a betting scandal that has devastated the
league and threatened the credibility of every referee.

A subdued Stern said he felt betrayed by former referee Tim
Donaghy, the target of an FBI investigation for allegedly betting
on games, including some he officiated, over the last two seasons.

Stern said he believed no other officials or players would be
implicated in the betting scandal.

Pausing often and carefully choosing his words during the
packed, 1-hour, 10-minute news conference, Stern compared Donaghy
to someone who's committed treason.

"I feel betrayed by what happened on behalf of the sport,
regardless of how protective I've been," he said. "This is not
something that is anything other than an act of betrayal of what we
know in sports as a sacred trust."

Besides allegedly placing his own wagers, investigators also are
examining whether Donaghy provided inside information to others,
including referees' schedules, according to a person familiar with
the investigation.

"Not only aren't they permitted to either gamble or provide
information to people," Stern said, "they may not even provide
other than to their immediate family the details of their travel
schedules or the games they are going to work."

The FBI first contacted the NBA on June 20 to talk about a
referee alleged to be gambling on games, and the two sides met on
June 21, Stern said. Donaghy resigned July 9, though Stern said he
would have fired him sooner but was told it might affect the
investigation.

Although Donaghy has not yet been charged with a crime, Stern
said the referee's lawyer told the league his client is
contemplating a plea.

But as far as Stern is concerned, "If you bet on a game, you
lose the benefit of the doubt."

Donaghy's attorney, John Lauro, declined comment when reached by
telephone. Donaghy is expected to surrender late this week or early
next week.

Stern said he believes the NBA will recover from the damage,
noting college basketball and German soccer had overcome their own
point-shaving scandals. But he wouldn't deny the league is in
trouble.

"I can tell you that this is the most serious situation and
worst situation that I have ever experienced either as a fan of the
NBA, a lawyer for the NBA or a commissioner of the NBA," said
Stern, who has held the top post for 23 years.

Stern said there was nothing suspicious about the frequency of
Donaghy's foul calls, the size of his bank account or anything else
that would have tipped off the league. And though the NBA stresses
its system of monitoring referees gives it the best officials in
sports, Stern said he wasn't shocked Donaghy slipped through the
cracks.

"I'll only invoke the earlier reference to the CIA, the FBI and
people who get away with doing dastardly things," he said. "If
you're intent upon engaging in criminal activity, and if you are
acting alone in many cases without the knowledge of even your
family, it's possible. Our history is replete with examples of
that. So it doesn't come as a surprise that you could go
undetected."

Donaghy was an NBA referee for 13 years, and Stern said he was
rated in the top tier of officials. But this wasn't the first time
he was in trouble with the league.

In January 2005, Stern said, the NBA investigated a dispute
between Donaghy and a West Chester, Pa., neighbor.

The neighbors, Pete and Lisa Mansueto, sued Donaghy for
harassment and invasion of privacy, and accused him of vandalizing
their property and stalking Lisa Mansueto. In their lawsuit, the
Mansuetos also alleged that Donaghy set fire to a tractor they
owned and crashed their golf cart from Radley Run Country Club into
a ravine.

During the NBA investigation, there were allegations that
Donaghy was gambling -- not on sports -- in Atlantic City. Stern said
the league contacted every casino in Atlantic City and Las Vegas
and found no evidence of gambling by Donaghy.

NBA referees aren't even allowed in casinos. Stern said the only
betting they can do is at the racetrack in the summer.

Donaghy wasn't allowed to officiate the second round of the 2005
playoffs because of the incident with the neighbors, Stern said.
But after Donaghy moved to Florida, Stern said there were no other
complaints or allegations that turned up in any of the NBA's
background checks.

Tuesday, Stern vowed to review the league's procedures to make
sure this wouldn't happen again, and asked fans to give the NBA the
"benefit of the doubt based upon what we have done, what we stand
for and what we pledge to continue to do.

"This is something that is the worst that could happen to a
professional sports league," Stern said. "And I want to say on
the other hand that we are going to make good on the covenant that
we believe we have with our fans, and I pledge that my involvement
will be as intense and complete as it can possibly be."