- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 25, 2007

NEW YORK — David Stern blamed a “rogue, isolated criminal” yesterday for a betting scandal that has devastated the league and threatened the credibility of every referee.

A subdued Stern said he felt betrayed by former referee Tim Donaghy, the target of an FBI investigation for supposedly betting on games over the last two seasons, including some he officiated.

Stern said he believed no other officials or players would be implicated in the betting scandal.

Pausing often and carefully choosing his words during the packed, 1-hour, 10-minute press conference, Stern compared Donaghy to someone who has committed treason.

“I feel betrayed by what happened on behalf of the sport, regardless of how protective I’ve been,” he said. “This is not something that is anything other than an act of betrayal of what we know in sports as a sacred trust.”

Besides being said to have placed his own wagers, investigators also are examining whether Donaghy provided inside information to others, including the referee’s schedules, according to a person familiar with the investigation.

“Not only aren’t they permitted to either gamble or provide information to people, they may not even provide other than to their immediate family the details of their travel schedules or the games they are going to work,” Stern said.

The FBI first contacted the NBA on June 20 to talk about a referee reported to be gambling on games, and the two sides met June 21, Stern said. Donaghy resigned July 9, though Stern said he would have fired him sooner but was told it might affect the investigation.

Although Donaghy has not yet been charged with a crime, Stern said the referee’s lawyer told the league his client is contemplating a plea.

But as far as Stern is concerned, “If you bet on a game, you lose the benefit of the doubt.”

Donaghy’s attorney, John Lauro, declined comment when reached by telephone. Donaghy is expected to surrender late this week or early next week.

Stern said he believes the NBA will recover from the damage, noting college basketball and German soccer had overcome their own point-shaving scandals. But he wouldn’t deny the league is in trouble.

“I can tell you that this is the most serious situation and worst situation that I have ever experienced either as a fan of the NBA, a lawyer for the NBA or a commissioner of the NBA,” said Stern, who has held the top post for 23 years.

Stern said there was nothing suspicious about the frequency of Donaghy’s foul calls, the size of his bank account or anything else that would have tipped off the league. And though the NBA stresses its system of monitoring referees gives it the best officials in sports, Stern said he wasn’t shocked Donaghy slipped through the cracks.

“I’ll only invoke the earlier reference to the CIA, the FBI and people who get away with doing dastardly things,” he said. “If you’re intent upon engaging in criminal activity, and if you are acting alone in many cases without the knowledge of even your family, it’s possible. Our history is replete with examples of that. So it doesn’t come as a surprise that you could go undetected.”

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