Stern defends integrity of referees amid accusations of fixing games

Friday, June 13, 2008

LOS ANGELES -- David Stern came to the defense of his beleaguered referees again Thursday, saying they don't manipulate games or engage in other criminal activity.

And just to make sure, the NBA will go back and reinterview every single referee about Tim Donaghy's latest allegations of rigged playoff series in 2002 and 2005.

Speaking to the media at an NBA finals that has been increasingly overshadowed by the Donaghy scandal, the commissioner said Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference finals might have been officiated poorly, but honestly and not illegally.

"On behalf of my officials, I'd like to tell you that they don't engage in the criminal conduct of which Mr. Donaghy has accused them of," Stern said.

Donaghy claimed this week in a court filing that two "company men" worked that game, in which the Los Angeles Lakers used a huge free-throw advantage in the fourth quarter to avoid elimination against Sacramento.

"The allegations about that are incorrect," Stern said. "Not true."

Stern called a press conference that began a half hour before Game 4.

Stern acknowledged the FBI investigation into Donaghy's claims did include questions about Dick Bavetta, one of the officials who worked the 2002 Game 6, but reiterated the message he has repeated for a year, saying, "the only person now being sentenced for a crime is Mr. Donaghy."

-- AP

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