David Stern suspended referee Joey Crawford indefinitely today following Crawford’s ejection of Tim Duncan in Sunday’s Spurs/Mavs matchup on national TV. According to the ESPN.com story, Stern said:
“Especially in light of similar prior acts by this official, a significant suspension is warranted,” Stern said in a statement. “Although Joey is consistently rated as one of our top referees, he must be held accountable for his actions on the floor, and we will have further discussions with him following the season to be sure he understands his responsibilities.”
The article goes on to suggest that Crawford thinks he may have officiated his final NBA game.
I must admit I am pleasantly surprised by the commissioner’s decision to suspend Crawford. The league is usually tight-lipped when it comes to disciplining its zebras, and rightly so. But some public disciplining of Joey Crawford has been due for some time.
The actions of officials are routinely blown out of proportion and discussed without proper appreciation for how difficult their jobs are. However, Joey Crawford is in a category all by himself. I cannot think of a single official that so publicly and consistently crosses the line to the point of being unprofessional. Crawford consistently refuses to follow the “sticks and stones” mantra that the league expects players to follow. Crawford, is to my mind rarely satisfied with simply diffusing a situation. He insists on having the last word. Everyone else must walk away, must not laugh, lest they show him up. But Crawford seems to have no problems showing others up. I have never felt this way about a single other official in any sport. (And I’m a baseball fan first and foremost where the screaming matches with umpires are legendary.)
We entrust officials with control over our games so that a disinterested third party can manage the rules and manage conflict. The league has done an admirable job of making players understand that they must respect this arrangement. But, those to whom such trust is given must also respect the arrangement–not lord it over others. Joey Crawford, on too many occasions for my taste, lost sight of that.