On the Sideline: Harmonizing the bond between ref and player

Throughout the history of the NBA, players and coaching staff have frequently clashed with the officials over controversial calls. Often, the players and coaching staff are in the wrong, but in the case that they are right, the play is seldom reviewed, and the player simply receives either a technical or an ejection for arguing with the referee.

For example, superstar Lebron James had his first ejection in his 15 year career last season for arguing excessively with a referee on a missed foul call during his drive. Instead of watching the play again to determine the optimal call, the referees instantly punished James and ejected him from the game.

This problem can be solved if the referees rewatch the play, determine the right call and give a decision after the call. Instead of leaving the players confused and frustrated, the officials should give valid reasons for their calls. Additionally, referees should be open to changing previously made calls and acknowledging that their decisions may be wrong.

For instance, turning to the differnet sport of soccer, Fédération Internationale de Football Association, or FIFA, implemented the just system in Video Assistant Referee.  This ensured the quality of the calls and left players admitting to the decisions of the referees.

For instance, in last year’s World Cup, there were numerous calls that were either overturned or reviewed during the final between France and Croatia. Through recorded officiating, the matches were played more fairly.

Not only are the referees granted power to completely shift game’s tide with poorly made calls, but they can also remove a player or coach from the game for any minor altercation. During this season, San Antonio Spurs’ head coach Gregg Popovich was ejected just one minute into the game against the Denver Nuggets for the same reason as James. Another popular example is from 2007, when All-Star player Tim Duncan got ejected from chuckling on the bench in a close game against the Dallas Mavericks.

In addition to receiving a $25,000 fine for the ejection, the Spurs also lost to Dallas in the game, losing their chance at earning a second seed in the Western Conference. If referees continue to abuse their powers instead of officiating fairly, the games could easily be swayed more towards one team and consequently be seen as rigged.

Bad calls from referees ruined several big games such as the playoff game of Houston Rockets against Golden State Warriors, where All-Star James Harden had contact on the way down from his jumpshot. To be a playoff referee is a big deal, and to miss these key calls can drastically change the outcome of the game. Since Harden wasn’t put on the foul line, the Rockets lost the game by four points.

Also, referees miss simple calls, which shouldn’t be happening. On “Shaqtin’ a Fool,” a NBA blooper show, many travels were showcased without a call from the refs. If the officials are missing the easiest calls, how can they judge the playoffs to the best of their abilities?

We need the officials to listen to the players and coaches from time to time. Although they may seem biased, sometimes the players are right, and the way the play is judged can determine the game’s outcome. For the sake of the game, officiating needs to evolve.