NBA: Integrity questions taken seriously

Updated: October 30, 2009, 4:07 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

The NBA said Thursday it will review allegations reportedly made in a tell-all book written by former referee Tim Donaghy -- a book that was pulled before publication in the past two weeks.

Among the allegations reportedly made by Donaghy in the book "Blowing the Whistle: The Culture of Fraud in the NBA," Donaghy was able to bet on games based on information on the styles of officials and some of their relationships with certain players and teams.

Donaghy
Donaghy

"In 2008 Mr. Donaghy's allegations were thoroughly investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office," the NBA said in a statement on Thursday. "We are reassured that the U.S. Government completed its investigation finding that the only criminal conduct was that of Mr. Donaghy.

"We take any question regarding the integrity of our game extremely seriously. At the time Mr. Donaghy's crimes came to light, we appointed Lawrence B. Pedowitz, a former Chief of the Criminal Division in the U.S. Attorney's office of the Southern District of New York to lead a comprehensive independent review of the NBA's officiating program. Mr. Pedowitz's review revealed that the NBA's core values of neutrality and accountability were not compromised by anyone other than Mr. Donaghy.

"As with all allegations concerning the integrity of our officiating program, these latest assertions by Mr. Donaghy will be turned over to Mr. Pedowitz for a complete review."

Donaghy was sentenced to 15 months in prison last year after pleading guilty to conspiracy to engage in wire fraud and transmitting betting information through interstate commerce. At trial, he said he took thousands of dollars from a professional gambler in exchange for inside tips on NBA games -- including games he worked, starting in 2003.

"The National Basketball Referees Association is disappointed, but not surprised, with the actions taken by Tim Donaghy," Lloyd Pierson, a representative of the NBRA, wrote in an e-mail to ESPN.com's Marc Stein. "This continues to be the Tim that we know. He repeatedly attempts to highlight himself in the media, but the 59 NBA referees will continue to officiate games with the utmost integrity and the focus will remain on the 2009-2010 NBA Season."

The Web site Deadspin.com released what it said were excerpts of the book Wednesday night.

Also Wednesday, a representative of Triumph Books, a division of Random House Publishing, wrote in an e-mail that the company had backed away from the potential book out of "concerns over potential liability."

Pat Berdan, a senior consultant at Executive Prison Consultants and Donaghy's liaison to the book publisher, told ESPN.com on Wednesday night that the NBA "threatened that they would sue" if the book was published. An NBA spokesman denied the claim, saying the league was aware of the book but had not received or reviewed a copy.

Random House spokesman Stuart Applebaum told ESPN: "The NBA absolutely did not threaten litigation. The decision was made at Random House on our own accord based on a close final legal review of the material and then evaluated by independent sources of some of the statements Donaghy made in the book.

Applebaum added, "The decision not to publish the book was ours and it was made independent of any individual or organization."

In court papers from the 2008 case against Donaghy, prosecutors said that 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.

Donaghy 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 returned 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.

Information from The Associated Press is included in this report

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