Referees making a stand

By Jason Wojciechowski on February 28, 2004 at 5:24 PM

NBA referees protested the suspension of their colleague last night by wearing their jerseys inside out, with the number 62 (suspended ref Michael Henderson's number) on the back.

I think the protest is entirely appropriate, and NBA fans should do whatever they can to help out the referees in this case. As in the other major sports, NBA referees are at the top of their game. Everyone always claims that their favorite sport has the worst refereeing of all the sports, but the jobs are so different and so difficult that it's impossible to say who's really the worst.

To suspend a referee for making a mistake is simply uncalled for. Did Kobe Bryant get suspended by the Lakers for missing the three-pointer that would have beat the Kings two nights ago? Did Bill Buckner get suspended for letting the ball go through his legs? Nobody's perfect, and nobody should be punished for not being perfect. If Henderson ends up with a laundry list of mistakes at the end of the year, then by all means, find someone better to do the job. That's what performance evaluation is all about: getting the best people for the job. Suspending him now does nothing but terrorize the refs, make them afraid of making bad calls, and distract them from doing their jobs.

Stu Jackson made mention of the fact that the poor call was made at "a highly critical point in the game." What does that have to do with anything? Mistakes happen in blowouts, and mistakes happen at the end of tight games. You can't expect referees to get better at their jobs in critical moments, because what does that mean about the non-critical moments? You can't give more than 100% effort and attention to something, right? So if you're supposed to be better in some situations than others, then that means you're expected to give less than 100% to the non-critical situations.

In short, it was human error. The NBA has to accept that errors will happen as a cost of doing business. Suspending referees is not acknowledging that cost.

Go here to send a letter to the NBA protesting the suspension and demanding that no action be taken against the refs who turned their jerseys around.