Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Your Daily Fix 4.18.07 [J. Mark English]

  • Brian Urlacher of the Chicago Bears is being fined $100,000 for wearing an authorized hat. I'm all for the free market, but this story rubs me the wrong way.
  • Phil Taylor of Sports Illusrtrated offers his views on the recent suspension of NBA referree Joey Crawford: Did NBA referee Joey Crawford take a run at Tim Duncan and body-slam him into the boards, NHL-style? Did he steal a trick from the WWE and wallop Duncan with a folding chair? Did he pull a Pac-Man Jones and compile a rap sheet longer than the Harry Potter series? Those are the sorts of acts that should get someone banned for the rest of a season, but unless we all missed something, all Crawford did was toss Duncan out of a game unnecessarily.

    That makes Crawford an official on a power trip, a club that includes many, many other members, and not just in the NBA. For his lapse in judgment, Crawford was suspended for the rest of the season, including the playoffs, a punishment that far exceeds the seriousness of the crime.

    This isn't to say that Crawford was blameless -- far from it. He was, as commissioner David Stern pointed out in his statement announcing the suspension, highly unprofessional in his handling of the Duncan dispute. Handing Duncan a second technical foul, and with it an automatic ejection, for merely laughing in amazement at one of Crawford's calls during the Spurs-Mavericks game on Sunday, was an egregious abuse of power. If, as Duncan claims, Crawford challenged him to a fight, a suspension is definitely in order, although when Crawford allegedly said "Do you want to fight?" he almost certainly meant it in a figurative sense, as in, "Do you want to challenge my authority?"

    Either way, Crawford lost his cool, acted inappropriately and deserved to be called on the carpet by Stern. As a 29-year veteran and the second-longest-tenured ref in the league, however, he did not deserve to have the hammer dropped on him. Banning him from the first round of the playoffs and keeping him from working any games involving the Spurs during the postseason would have been about right. That probably would have been enough to embarrass Crawford into reining in his temper during the playoffs, and it wouldn't have cost the league one of its top referees for the entire postseason -- because that's what Crawford is when he's not handing out T's like after-dinner mints.

  • The Golden State Warriors hope to sneak in to the playoffs tonight for the first time in 13 years.
  • Here is the latest on hearings the Supreme Court heard today about the high school football recruiting case: Recruiting rules for high school sports help protect students and do not amount to free-speech infringement, an attorney for a Tennessee athletic association argued Wednesday before the Supreme Court.
    The decades-old case involves a letter sent from the football coach at Brentwood Academy, a wealthy private school south of Nashville, to 12 eighth-graders - inviting them to attend spring training.
    The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association, which governs high school sports in the state, found the 1997 letter to be a violation of its recruiting rule.
    Maureen Mahoney, an attorney for the association, told the justices that enforcement of the rule imposed a "minimal burden" on speech that was outweighed by intent of the rule _ to keep from harming and pressuring young adults.
    The attorney for Brentwood, James Blumstein, argued that the letter was harmless and was sent only to students at other schools who had already signed an "enrollment contract" and planned to attend the private school.
    The school was hit with a $3,000 fine and four years’ probation by the association. School officials unsuccessfully appealed twice before suing.
    The case has been before the Supreme Court before.
    In 2001, the court ruled 5-4 in favor of Brentwood, saying the athletic association acted in a quasi-governmental capacity and could be sued.
    A federal appeals court later ruled in favor of the school, saying the letter amounts to protected speech under the First Amendment. If that ruling stands, it would prevent all high school associations from enforcing recruiting rules, say lawyers for the state athletic association.
    The NCAA, the National School Boards Association and the National Federation of State High School Associations have filed briefs supporting the Tennessee athletic association saying broad powers are needed to protect children by enforcing recruiting rules.
    Brentwood Academy has the support of the National Women’s Law Center, which is worried about holding government accountable for gender discrimination, the Association of Christian Schools International and the National Association of Independent Schools.