Referees call for NBA to end Last Two Minute Reports

AP Photo/Steve Yeater
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NBA commissioner Adam Silver defended Last Two Minute Reports, and I’m firmly behind him.

Transparency? Good.

Accountability? Good.

Better informing fans? Good.

The National Basketball Referees Association? Um…

That union took a different approach:

NBRA POSITION ON THE CURRENT L2M REPORTING POLICY

Position The NBRA believes the league’s actions to promote so-called transparency will cause more harm than good for the officials and the game. We call for an end to L2M reporting and other transparency measures and a return to private, league-managed evaluations, reviews, education, training, and discipline for NBA officials.

Should the NBA reject the NBRA’s call and press forward with L2M reporting, it is critical that the current process be reformed to improve its accuracy and minimize the damage and divisiveness it is causing.

Reasons to End L2M Reporting and Other “Transparency” Measures

• Transparency does nothing to change the outcome of the game.

• Transparency encourages anger and hostility towards NBA officials.

• Focusing on officiating statistics encourages stat-oriented, versus game-oriented, officiating. It is in the best interest of the NBA and its fans to encourage and develop game-oriented referees that balance game flow and fair play.

• Efforts to promote transparency have encouraged the idea that perfection in officiating is possible. Perfection is neither possible nor desirable; if every possible infraction were to be called, the game would be unwatchable and would cease to exist as a form of entertainment in this country.

• Transparency has been misused as a catalyst by some teams to mobilize fans against the officials in an attempt to coerce more favorable treatment.

• While the goal of transparency was to promote understanding and credibility, there is no evidence that progress against these goals is being made.

Key Concerns/Questions About the Current Process

1. Who in NBA Referee Operations is evaluating the game footage and writing the initial L2M reports, and what are their qualifications?

2. Who at NBA League Operations is actually reviewing and editing the L2M reports, and what qualifications do they have to evaluate and change the reports prior to their being released? What is the reasoning behind those changes?

3. Are the reviewers applying the same league-directed guidelines and instructions related to rules interpretation as the referees on the court are?

4. Why does NBA League Operations have the final word on reviews? Why can’t those decisions be challenged?

Recommended Process Reforms (if NBA continues L2M reporting)

1. Increase L2M Process Transparency

Identify the individuals reviewing and editing reports and reveal their qualifications to do so. Only people with extensive officiating experience should be in a position to review on-court decisions.

2. Interpret Rules Consistently

Referees are instructed by the league on how to interpret the rules, and it is critical that L2M reporting follow those same interpretations. It is not uncommon to see L2M review comments contradict directions/guidelines given to the game officials.

3. Establish An Appeal Process

L2M reports represent only a single perspective on a particular play, and those judgments are not infallible. A forum to question/challenge an L2M report decision will encourage dialogue that will enhance fan understanding and ensure that everyone involved benefits from valuable learning and insight.

I agree with the referee union’s key concerns and questions. In the name of transparency, the NBA should address that. I even agree with the recommended process reforms. The Last Two Minute Reports should acknowledge gray areas in officiating, though the league and officials should try to make as much as possible black and white.

Which leads to where I think the union is really off its rocker:

Perfection is neither possible nor desirable; if every possible infraction were to be called, the game would be unwatchable and would cease to exist as a form of entertainment in this country.

Perfection isn’t desirable? Are you kidding?

That’s a joke of a contention, one designed to protect referees from consequences for missed calls.

Perfect is absolutely desirable.

It’s not possible, but if you’re not even interested in trying for it, what are you doing? Miss a call… no big deal, wasn’t trying to get ’em all right.

The rules should be written to handle the game the way the league wants it handled. If enforcing the rules as written would make the game unwatchable, the rules should be rewritten. It’s not on the officials to create their own code different from the rule book.