Donaghy book canceled over liability

Updated: October 29, 2009, 2:11 PM ET
By Sam Alipour | ESPN The Magazine

Former NBA referee Tim Donaghy's tell-all book has been canceled by Triumph Books and parent company Random House, the publisher said.

"Blowing the Whistle: The Culture of Fraud in the NBA" was slated for publication later this month. The book was to have covered Donaghy's experience as an NBA referee and the events leading up to his conviction on federal wire fraud charges.

During the process of editing and vetting the manuscript, which Triumph received from Donaghy in the spring, Random House and its imprint made the joint decision to cancel the book out of "concerns over potential liability," according to an e-mail from a Triumph representative.

Pat Berdan, a senior consultant at Executive Prison Consultants and Donaghy's liaison to the publisher, said that the decision not to publish the book came two weeks ago. He said it was the result of a threat of legal action by the NBA.

"Somehow, the NBA got wind of the project and let Random House know in a threatening-type correspondence that they would object to the publication of such a book and they threatened that they would sue if they did go ahead and do that," said Berdan, who didn't see any letters from the NBA. "Random House considered that and ... just pulled the plug on it."

"The NBA never threatened a lawsuit or anything else," NBA vice president of basketball communications Tim Frank wrote in an e-mail to ESPN.com.

Berdan said the book was vetted, including one final look by a senior attorney from Random House, and was ready to go to press when the company decided not to publish the book.

"Our supposition is that they became aware that the book is coming," Berdan said. "The major houses knew the book was coming. So it's conceivable that the NBA found out the book was forthcoming and it was a reaction to the general information. There's no question that they have a certain degree of contempt toward Donaghy."

The NBA was aware of the book but had not received or reviewed a copy.

Berdan said there is "legitimate interest" from five publishers to continue with the book.

Donaghy, 42, remains behind bars for a probation violation following his 15-month prison sentence.

A New York judge sentenced Donaghy last year after the referee said he took thousands of dollars from a professional gambler in exchange for inside tips on NBA games -- including games he worked.

Court papers say Donaghy began placing bets on NBA games in 2003. He gave gambling associates sensitive information, including which crews would officiate games and how the various officials and players interacted.

His actions "compromised his objectivity as a referee because of his personal financial interest in the outcome of NBA games," the government said.

Donaghy said in a court filing that the league routinely encouraged refs to ring up bogus fouls to manipulate results, while discouraging them from calling technical fouls on star players.

Commissioner David Stern has called Donaghy's allegations "baseless," saying he tried to implicate others to secure a lighter sentence.

Donaghy said he took part in the betting operation because he was a gambling addict.

He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to engage in wire fraud and transmitting betting information through interstate commerce in the tips-for-payoffs scheme.

He was released from a federal prison in Pensacola, Fla., to a halfway house in June. He was scheduled for release on Oct. 24.

But Donaghy was sent back to prison in August when he was accused of violating his federal probation by not showing up for work, the U.S. Marshals Service said. His lawyer said it was all a misunderstanding.

Sam Alipour is a writer for ESPN The Magazine. His Media Blitz column appears in ESPN The Magazine and regularly on ESPN.com's Page 2. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Sam Alipour is a Senior Writer at ESPN Magazine and contributor to ESPN and ESPN.com. Contact him at sam.alipour@gmail.com and on Twitter.

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