Another sports figure is ratting out to the government and turning the sport he represented on its head. Former NBA referee and current convicted felon, Tim Donaghy continues to spill his guts to the federal government like water flowing over Niagara Falls. Donaghy has previously pleaded guilty to federal charges that he shared inside information on NBA games with gamblers. He is now alleging that there was a conspiracy between certain NBA referees working during the 2002 NBA playoffs to assure that a series presumed to be the 2002 Western Conference finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings would go to a seventh game. He has also made allegation regarding the “targeting” of players by the refs in the Dallas Mavericks 2005 playoff series against the Houston Rockets. Denials have flown from every angle, crisscrossing with reckless abandon. Other referees involved have disputed these allegations.
Sports media outlets are ablaze with debate on whether Congress should step in and hold hearings on whether the Donahy allegations represent an isolated instance or whether the integrity of the game as a whole has been flagrantly compromised. NBA Commissioner David Stern accurately and understandably points out that Donaghy is a convicted felon who would say anything to reduce his sentence. That does not necessarily mean his allegations are not true. Has the public confidence in the integrity of the outcomes of all NBA games been compromised? Should we just all chalk this up to a vindictive guy about to hit the prison hoops circuit getting his last digs in?
There certainly is plenty of precedent for Congress to step in and hold hearings when there is a loss of public confidence or a perception that the event going consumer is “being scammed”. It often does not even have to rise to that level. Public outrage over one particular incident is often impetus enough
In the aftermath of the on-track euthanizing of the filly Eight Belles in the Kentucky Derby , under strong pressure from PETA, The House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection will hold hearings entitled “Breeding, Drugs, and Breakdowns: The State of Thoroughbred Racing and the Welfare of the Thoroughbred Racehorse.” Safety issues in the sport will be examined.
As if the subject had not been beaten to death, the same subcommittee again recently invited testimony on the use of performance-enhancing drugs in professional sports. Representative Bobbie L. Rush(D-Ill) and others are seeking to establish uniform testing and punishment in the four major sports.
Just when we thought New England Patriot turncoat Matt Walsh had finished glomming his 15 minutes of fame and Spygate had died the unceremonious, irrelevant death it deserves, congressional media hound Arlen Specter rears his ancient head. It now appears that the ugly “spector” of Congressional hearings will no longer hang over us like bats in the night ready to suck the life out of every red-blooded football fan. Arlen Specter has finally realized that no one cares and has dropped his call for an investigation.
How can we not talk about the Congressional steroid hearings that started with the tell-all memoir of Jose Canseco and ended with the startling revelations of Mindy McCready with Roger Clemens caught right in the middle. (Does that qualify as a threesome?) These hearings were called “Restoring Faith in America’s Pastime: Evaluating Major League Baseball’s Efforts to Eradicate Steroid Use.“ Ironically one of the dignitaries calling for these hearings was Republican Presidential candidate John McCain.
In 2005, after the murder-suicide involving professional wrestler Chris Benoit, Rep. Henry Waxman, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Tom Davis, its ranking minority member, asked WWE to provide documents giving the committee a detailed look at WWE’s drug-testing policy and drug test results. Hearings went forward in February 2008; It is unclear at this point if anything further will be done.
There is also precedent outside of sports for such investigations when it was felt that there was a loss of “public trust or confidence” in the integrity of a certain industry. I am referring to the Quiz Show Scandals and the Comic Book Hearings of the 1950s.
Is Congress wasting its time and our money on such mundane issues as steroids and alleged game- fixing? After all, Congress did not see fit to involve itself in one of the most egregious instances of game fixing in the history of professional sports, the 1919 Blacksox Scandal. Would Congress have invovlved itself had baseball not taken aggressive steps to clean up the gambling?
In the grand scheme of things, there are certainly more emotional issues at our doorsteps. American soldiers dying in Iraq and Afghanistan. People having to choose between a gallon of gas and a month’s rent, or feeding their kids.
Does the fact that we have these terrible issues mean that we should ask our elected representatives to ignore these seemingly trivial issues? If we were not at war and the economy was booming, would we still view these sports issues as trivial? More importantly, is the lack of public trust in an industry really trivial? There is so much more at stake. Billions of dollars in jobs, revenues, public tax concessions, public stadium financing etc. These all have a significant impact on our economy.
What should the standard for intervention be? There is a huge difference between isolated acts of dishonesty and acts so integral to the proper functioning of the industry that all is compromised. Spygate is a perfect example. These were isolated acts They did not undermine public confidence in the integrity of the outcome of professional football games as a whole.
What are the players’ reactions to the possibility of Congress butting-in in their respective sports Should there be a governing body that oversees the 4 major sports?
Patrick Johnson is a wide receiver for the Toronto Argronauts of the Canadian Football League. He has also played for the Baltimore Ravens, Jacksonville Jaguars and the Washington Redskins. He earned a Super Bowl ring when the Ravens won Super Bowl XXXV.
Pat had this to say:
“I would be in favor of congressional intervention depending on the into sports scandals. “We are considered “role models” to the many youth and others who only dream to have the jobs we have. We should not have to hide behind the “perception” that we have created to shape and mold the minds of those who watch every week. We as pro athletes are perceived to be fair and honest when it comes to taking drugs that may illegally alter, or enhance the performance of an individual.
I am in favor of this because with the latest developments in our world and in MLB, something has to be done by our federal government. Are our leagues corrupted at the top? Are these leagues letting their premier players skate by drug testing because of their bottom line? We have no idea of knowing. Are our strings being pulled? These are some of the things I think about when thinking of the NBA scandal. How can a guy throw games for over a decade not be found out about? Is it still going on now? How would even know if it was? If government intervened, it would bring to light what the underbelly of pro sports is really about in some cases. Here in the CFL we don’t have any testing in place and as far as I can see, we don’t have a widespread issue with illegal drug use.”
Jim Leyritz is a former MLB player. He played for several teams throughout his career. He was best known as a member of the New York Yankees and for his home run off Atlanta Braves closer Mark Wohlers in Game 4 of the 1996 World Series.
Jim had this to say:
“Professional sports need some type of outside monitoring. Is congress the answer? All the professional sports have shown at one time or another they cannot monitor themselves. Football and Baseball with the drug polices, hockey with the abortion of a strike and of course now the NBA with the refs. Let us not forget the Tour De France controversy and our Olympic Athletes. All of these sports should have an outside governing body. We have given all sports enough rope in the past. They all have proven monitoring from a third party would be beneficial to Players, teams, owners and most of all the Fans.”
Should Congress step in to the NBA situation or any professional sports scandal? Should we leave it to them in investigate their own? There is a strong argument that if something is amiss, market forces will be all that is needed to correct the problem. No one will attend events. Revenues will drop drastically. Action will be taken. Should there be an independent governing body for the four major sports? What should the standard be? Can we ever truly know that all is on the up and up? Should we make an effort to know or is ignorance bliss as long as we are entertained and the Las Vegas line is thriving? Who has the job of getting to the truth? Can an entity investigating its own be truly objective?
Who will be looking for the blue dress?