Just when you think everyone on the planet has sounded off about the poor officiating by the NFL replacement refs, somebody comes along with a stunning new twist. This time, that person is infamous former NBA official Tim Donaghy, who served time in prison after pleading guilty to charges that he gambled on games.
Donaghy says the NFL’s replacement officials are privy to a bevy of inside NFL information as they prepare for the weeks games, and that they could potentially be leaking some of that information, knowingly or unknowingly, to folks in the gambling community.
Tim Donaghy joined 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh with Troy Clardy to discuss the NFL replacements being susceptible to gambling situations, what information they could have, background checks on officials, some of the situations that have come up with the officials, the league’s stance against gambling and if his story has changed professional officiating.
What are your thoughts on whether the replacement officials could be more susceptible to being involved with gambling?:
“I think the bottom line is these guys are being put in a situation where they really know the insides of the NFL in these meetings before these games. The regular referees would meet on Thursday and Friday and Saturday before a game on Sunday and they would discuss different things. These referees are now being privy to the fact that maybe this week they may be cracking down on the Atlanta Falcons for holding because in the prior weeks there were several calls that were missed against them … and they were showed that through a film session. When you know some inside information like that and you know your buddy … is a big-time gambler and you, knowingly or unknowingly, pass that information along to him, that’s stuff that’s big-time information to gamblers.”
What other information might they have that would be of particular interest to gamblers?:
“The bottom line is your showed film and maybe there’s a holding by defensive backs that needs to be cracked down on by certain teams. Through film sessions and through viewing this, you know it’s going to take place this Sunday because you’re being told to do it by somebody who’s writing a check for you. … Guys in the gambling business and the gambling industry love to have that type of information.”
How deep do you think the league looks in terms of background checks on officials or, in this case, replacement officials?:
“I think the leagues do background checks on everybody, but sometimes background checks don’t show things that take place. Everybody’s got friends that gamble; everybody enjoys gambling to a certain extent.”
What do you think when you see the stories about an official being a fan of a team or telling a player he has them on his fantasy team?:
“No doubt about it, if they’re refereeing a game associated with their team, most likely they’re going to be in a position to throw a flag a lot quicker in favor of that team versus not in favor of that team. It definitely questions the integrity of what’s taking place when they’re on the field and they’re in a situation where they’re rooting for or against their favorite team while they’re actually refereeing their game.”
What are your thoughts on the NFL’s stance on gambling?:
“It’s actually comical that they take an arm’s length approach to gambling, because it’s what really made football so popular is the point spreads, the Monday Night Football, getting back even with that last game on Monday night. It’s actually very comical to me that they act like they don’t want anything to do with it. It’s what fuels this industry. If you don’t have gambling and lines on NFL football, it’s nothing but a high school athletic competition.”
Do you think your story has changed officiating in professional sports?:
“I’d like to think that it’s changed it in the way that they’re trying to get rid of a lot of the star treatment and a lot of the open-ended areas of the inconsistency in calls from end to end. I’d like to think that it’s brought professional officiating under more scrutiny to where people aren’t going to have that advantage or disadvantage on the playing field.”
Once replacement officials are used in any professional sport, is the integrity of that sport on the line?:
“I think it’s a situation where you’re getting sub-par officiating and it can lead to different things — players able to get away with certain things and I think, at times, it can lead to injuries because the game’s played a different way than what these professional athletes are used to playing it at. It definitely hurts the quality of the game.”