Ralph Nader's at it again.
June 5, 2002 4:22 PM   Subscribe

Ralph Nader's at it again. The Nation's Top Consumer Watchdog apparently is a Kings fan. He's taking the NBA to task for the phantom fouls and blatant non-calls in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals. Can't say as I blame him though. That was some pretty crappy officiating. But doesn't he have better things to do?
posted by shecky57 (33 comments total)
Did you watch that game, Shecky? A friggin' travesty...
posted by ph00dz at 4:29 PM on June 5, 2002

Obviously Ralph lost money on the game.
posted by Ty Webb at 4:37 PM on June 5, 2002

Or more likely, Ralph would like to see NBC lose money on the playoffs....
posted by nomisxid at 4:53 PM on June 5, 2002

I thought that throughout the series there were questionable calls--for BOTH teams. I really hate it when team members, coaches, and/or fans cry about officiating. I know it sucks if you "know" you saw something that didn't get called. But I just think there comes a point in time where blaming the outcome of a game on the officating, much less the outcome of an entire series, is just unreasonable.

And, what about the uncharacteristic low Kings free-throw percentage in Game 6? Doesn't that factor in here somehow?
posted by rio at 5:25 PM on June 5, 2002

one can only imagine what nefarious purpose caused this man to pen the letter in question. lettuce hope it is not too earth shattering!
posted by mcsweetie at 5:27 PM on June 5, 2002

Duh, the Kings' free-throwing was low in Game 7. But I still don't like it when people complain too much about officating. It just seems to somehow all even out over the series, so why bother?
posted by rio at 5:30 PM on June 5, 2002

Why bother ... watching. I'm not a huge sports fan. I used to just watch basketball because it seemed fun. Now I watch baseball instead. I'm from Sacramento so I tuned into a couple games including Game 6. I won't be back soon. It's just stupid. The games are generally so close that the officiating and fouls are too important to provide even a pretense of interest. So, the Kings shot poor freethrows, am I missing something or is there a reason there's a slam dunk contest but no corresponding "free throw" contest?
posted by Wood at 5:37 PM on June 5, 2002

Normally I don't complain about the officiating either, guys... I think the point is that this time is a special case.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 5:56 PM on June 5, 2002

If game 6 were won by the Kings, as they deserved it to win it, there wouldn't have been a game 7.

The kind of blatant, what else to call it under the circumstances but cheating, watched by a considerable portion of the world, sends a disheartening message about the morality in the country, of our elections, corporate business practices, and now "professional" sports. It's a good place for Nader to get involved and fight for improvement.

If they could take back gold medals in the Olympic when impropriety was found, they sure could do it in the NBA, if they were honest.
posted by semmi at 7:17 PM on June 5, 2002

With all the events happening in the world since the 2000 election, THIS is how Nader finally crawls out of his hole? Weak.
posted by billder at 8:04 PM on June 5, 2002


mmm, sorry. I used to drive a Corvair, so Ralph makes me eat shoe.
posted by billder at 8:30 PM on June 5, 2002

Eight years of corporate ineptitude by Norv Turner's sorry butt in Washington. There's your real crime Ralphy...
posted by owillis at 9:50 PM on June 5, 2002

But doesn't he have better things to do? Apparently not, look at this for other things he has been up to.
posted by RunsWithBandageScissors at 1:15 AM on June 6, 2002

Wait a second... what does Norv Turner have to do with corporate ineptitude?
posted by goto11 at 6:32 AM on June 6, 2002

senmi must be a Kings fan.
posted by dig_duggler at 7:26 AM on June 6, 2002

I'm not saying that this happened, but the head-in-the-sand attitudes you people are showing makes it much easier for things like what Nader's complaining about to happen.

The fact is that the NBA and NBC would MUCH rather have had the Lakers win. After Enron and all of the other corporate BS we've seen, why is everyone so adamant that it's not going on in the NBA with NBC?
posted by eas98 at 7:27 AM on June 6, 2002

"Nader also called the league to task for not calling what many thought was an obvious foul in the fourth quarter of Game 6 when Lakers star Kobe Bryant, trying to fight through the defense of Kings' point-guard Mike Bibby, sent him to the floor with an accidental elbow to the face.

"'The Kobe Bryant elbow in the nose of Mike Bibby, who after lying on the floor groggy, went to the sideline bleeding, was in full view of the referee, who did nothing,' Nader said."

Actually they did do something... they called a foul on Bibby.

The talk here in Sacramento is that the NBA and NBC wanted to stretch the series to 7 games and in the 7th game, our boys just choked. (I personally would like to also point out that in game 4 where the Kings lost by 1 point, there was a 3-point shot credited to the Lakers at halftime that shouldn't have been.) We know that if the calls weren't the way they were that we would have sealed it after 5 games.

"The difference in advertising revenue between a four-game series and a seven-game series would cost NBC between $25 million and $35 million..."

That quote is from last season... but it still rings true today. We all know that there is something funny going on... it's just a matter of time until some fan decides to sue the NBA.
posted by darian at 8:01 AM on June 6, 2002

The question isn't whether he has better things to do, it's whether he realizes how doing things like this just reinforces the image of him as a out-of-touch dinosaur who feels compelled characterize every single thing -- no matter how trivial -- as a big corporate conspiracy. Like it's not enough that the guy is single-handedly responsible for getting Bush elected?
posted by pardonyou? at 8:49 AM on June 6, 2002

a out-of-touch dinosaur who feels compelled characterize every single thing as a big corporate conspiracy.

Where in the letter did Ralph claim that it was a big corporate conspiracy?

Like it's not enough that the guy is single-handedly responsible for getting Bush elected?

will somebody tell pardonyou what time it is?
posted by Ty Webb at 8:56 AM on June 6, 2002

Heres the full text of the letter:

Dear Mr. Stern,

At a time when the public's confidence is shaken by headlines reporting the breach of trust by corporate executives, it is important, during the public's relaxation time, for there to be maintained a sense of impartiality and professionalism in commercial sports performances.

That sense was severely shaken in the now notorious officiating during Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Sacramento Kings. Calls by referees in the NBA are likely to be more subjective than in professional baseball or football. But as the judicious and balanced Washington Post sports columnist Michael Wilbon wrote this Sunday, too many of the calls in the fourth quarter (when the Lakers received 27 foul shots) were "stunningly incorrect," all against Sacramento.

After noting that the three referees in Game 6 "are three of the best in the game," he wrote: "I have never seen officiating in a game of consequence as bad as that in Game 6....When Pollard, on his sixth and final foul, didn't as much as touch Shaq. Didn't touch any part of him. You could see it on TV, see it at courtside. It wasn't a foul in any league in the world. And Divac, on his fifth foul, didn't foul Shaq.

They weren't subjective or borderline or debatable. And these fouls not only resulted in free throws, they helped disqualify Sacramento's two low-post defenders." And one might add, in a 106-102 Lakers' victory, this officiating took away what would have been a Sacramento series victory in 6 games.

This was not all. The Kobe Bryant elbow in the nose of Mike Bibby, who after lying on the floor groggy, went to the sideline bleeding, was in full view of the referee, who did nothing, prompted many fans to start wondering about what was motivating these officials.

Wilbon discounted any conspiracy theories about the NBA-NBC desire for a Game 7 etc., but unless the NBA orders a review of this game's officiating, perceptions and suspicions, however presently absent any evidence, will abound and lead to more distrust and distaste for the games in general.

When the distinguished basketball writer for the USA Today, David DuPree, can say: "I've been covering the NBA for 30 years, and it's the poorest officiating in an important game I've ever seen," when Wilbon writes that "The Kings and Lakers didn't decide this series would be extended until Sunday; three referees did..." when many thousands of fans, not just those in Sacramento, felt that merit lost to bad refereeing, you need to take notice beyond the usual and widespread grumbling by fans and columnists about referees ignoring the rule book and giving advantages to home teams and superstars.

Your problem in addressing the pivotal Game 6 situation is that you have too much power. Where else can decision-makers (the referees) escape all responsibility to admit serious and egregious error and have their bosses (you) fine those wronged (the players and coaches) who dare to speak out critically?

In a February interview with David DuPree of USA Today, he asked you "Why aren't coaches and players allowed to criticize the referees?" You said, "...we don't want people questioning the integrity of officials. ...It just doesn't pay for us to do anything other than focus people on the game itself rather than the officiating." "Integrity" which we take you to mean "professionalism" of the referees has to be earned and when it is not, it has to be questioned. You and your league have a large and growing credibility problem.

Referees are human and make mistakes, but there comes a point that goes beyond any random display of poor performance. That point was reached in Game 6, which took away the Sacramento Kings Western Conference victory.

It seems that you have a choice. You can continue to exercise your absolute power to do nothing. Or you can initiate a review and if all these observers and fans turn out to be right, issue, together with the referees, an apology to the Sacramento Kings and forthrightly admit decisive incompetence during Game 6, especially in the crucial fourth quarter.

You should know, however, that absolute power, if you choose the former course of inaction, invites the time when it is challenged and changed, whether by more withdrawal of fans or by more formal legal or legislative action.

No government in our country can lawfully stifle free speech and fine those who exercise it; the NBA under present circumstances can both stifle and fine players and coaches who speak up.

There is no guarantee that this tyrannical status quo will remain stable over time, should you refuse to bend to reason and the reality of what occurred. A review that satisfies the fans' sense of fairness and deters future recurrences would be a salutary contribution to the public trust that the NBA badly needs.

We look forward to your considered response.

Ralph Nader
Shawn McCarthy
Director, League of Fans
posted by darian at 9:00 AM on June 6, 2002

As a matter of fact, ph00dz, I did watch this game. And yes, the officiating was horrendous (see my initial post). I'd put no credence into a conspiracy until the championship series stretches to 7 games. If the Lakers sweep, I'd say there is no conspiracy. Who'd gain from a 4 game series?

And for the record, I was pulling for the Kings. Mostly as a courtesy to my father-in-law, who's a pretty huge fan. Myself, I couldn't really care less. The NBA is a shadow of its former self.
posted by shecky57 at 10:32 AM on June 6, 2002

And besides, "League of Fans" sounds like a gaggle of comic fanboys (shades of "The Eltingville Club")
posted by shecky57 at 10:36 AM on June 6, 2002

Ty Webb: "will somebody tell pardonyou what time it is?"

Why don't you tell me what time it is, Ty? But before you do, why don't you take a look at what Matt Welch recently had to say:

"Eighteen hours earlier, I had watched the Nader 2000 crew engage in a far more flagrant manipulation of the truth, more egregious than anything else I witnessed during my two months covering the campaign for the lefty news site WorkingForChange.com. Even before the first preliminary exit poll data crossed the wires, young staffers, on the orders of campaign headquarters, were frantically devising multiple formulas to "prove" that Nader didn’t cost Gore the election, no matter what the results might say later. "That’s shocking," I told one of the harried idealists charged with carrying out the deception. The faces around the computer, for what it’s worth, did not register any surprise."
posted by pardonyou? at 10:51 AM on June 6, 2002

pardonyou, that link's been posted here a few times, my response is here. The charge is utterly ridiculous, not least becuase the Nader staff was so skeletal that no one had time to be surfing the web for those statistics on election night. Of course, I was only there in person. I can say this for Welch: he wasn't.
posted by Ty Webb at 11:11 AM on June 6, 2002

Thanks, Ty. Obviously I hadn't seen that link posted before, or your response. I'm certainly willing to give you the benefit of the doubt on this one. I still don't see how you can legitimately argue that Nader didn't cost Gore in Florida (thus costing him the election), but I don't think you and I will resolve that issue in this forum, anyway.
posted by pardonyou? at 11:28 AM on June 6, 2002

By the way, Ty, if you don't keep score, how do you measure yourself against other golfers?
posted by pardonyou? at 11:29 AM on June 6, 2002

I think it's beyond dispute that, had Nader not run, Gore would've won Florida, and thus the election. It's a bit narrow, though, to blame Nader, considering that Gore ran what was by many accounts one of the poorest, directionless campaigns in modern history. It was his election to lose, and he seemed to bend over backward to do so. Gore probably would've won had he put in as much effort to convince undecideds to vote for him as he did to convince Dems not to vote Nader.

There's also a strong case that the Nader vote put Democratic senators over the top in Washingtin State and Wisconsin, thus clearing the way for the Jeffords' switch and a Democratic-controlled Senate.
posted by Ty Webb at 11:35 AM on June 6, 2002

Excuse me, but Gore did win the presidency.

Re-elect gore in '04!
posted by eas98 at 11:46 AM on June 6, 2002

put Democratic senators over the top in Washingtin State and Wisconsin,

Wisconsin has two Senators, Kohl and Feingold, both are popular enough (have won by large enough margins) that a Nader vote would have been unneccesary (if either of the Senators were up for re-election in 2000, it would have been Kohl, who won his last election with at least 60% of the population voting for him)...
posted by drezdn at 12:45 PM on June 6, 2002

drezdn, whoops, my fault. I meant Dayton in Minnesota.
posted by Ty Webb at 2:40 PM on June 6, 2002

Ty Webb -- You may be a defammatory liar, but at least you're sloppy about it. For those interested, here is my coverage from inside Nader's Election Night party Nov. 7-8, 2000:
and here are all my articles covering the campaign:
It may be normal behavior in your circles to make stories up out of whole cloth, but in my line of work it's professional suicide.
posted by mattwelch at 5:53 PM on June 6, 2002

Bah! Who needs Nader when we have Pynchon.

Go Lakers!
posted by mrhappy at 8:38 PM on June 6, 2002

here's what tipped me off:

Eighteen hours earlier I had watched the Nader 2000 crew engage in a far more flagrant manipulation of the truth, more egregious than anything else I witnessed... before the first preliminary exit poll data crossed the wires, young staffers, on the orders of campaign headquarters,

1. Based on your reckoning of time, this would have taken place around 3 or 4:00pm on 11/7/00. At this time, staffers young and old, were at the campaign headquarters, not at the election night event at the National Press Club, which hadn't begun yet.

2. At this time the preliminary exit poll data had already crossed the wires, and we were getting into actual exit poll data. That's a fine point, yes, but it indicated to me that you were not above massaging the facts in an attempt to bring off a larger point. Ironic that this should be done in an article which accused Nader of doing just that.

Again, based on your reckoning of time, and the fact that I was at campaign HQ, and was aware both of the reporters who were there and that the small campaign staff had more than enough to do than plumb the internet, I did assume that you were charging that this took place there and then, which it did not.

When I wrote: I can say this for Welch: he wasn't. I was referring to Nader HQ. I did not mean to suggest that you were not at the NPC for the election night event, which was big enough that I obviously couldn't know who was and wasn't there. I admit that this was unclear, and I apologize for that. It was my mistake for assuming readers would automatically make the distinction.
posted by Ty Webb at 10:08 AM on June 7, 2002

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