Refs have new 'no-tipping' policy

Updated: October 29, 2009, 9:38 PM ET
By Chris Sheridan | ESPN.com

NEW YORK -- Referees are no longer allowed to tip locker room attendants, and teams were notified by the NBA that they must report any violations of that new rule to the league office, ESPN.com learned Wednesday.

The "no-tipping" policy is part of the new two-year collective bargaining agreement between the league and the referees' union, and ESPN.com obtained a league memo outlining the rule.

"The new collective bargaining agreement between the NBA and National Basketball Referees Association prohibits referees from paying tips or compensation of any kind to locker room attendants or other team or arena personnel for personal services performed for referees by such personnel during games. Consequently, team and arena personnel are now prohibited from asking for or accepting tips or other compensation from referees," said the memo, which was signed by Ronald Johnson, the league's senior vice president of referee operations.

"This is an important change to the CBA," the memo states. "While we do not believe that the pre-existing practice of tipping locker room attendants has affected the integrity of the officiating in any way, it could be perceived in a negative light, and it is therefore best to eliminate this practice.

"We expect all team and arena personnel to adhere strictly to the 'no tipping' policy, and ask that you provide notice of the new rule immediately to any affected personnel. If you learn of any referee who has paid a tip or other form of compensation to a locker room attendant or other personnel in violation of the CBA, please notify one of us."

It was unclear if the policy had any connection to allegations by disgraced ex-referee Tim Donaghy. The NBA has said it will review any new allegations made in Donaghy's book.

"We agreed with the referees' union that it was a conflict of interest to have referees and team personnel exchanging money," NBA spokesman Tim Frank said.

Chris Sheridan is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com.