It’s been reported by multiple sources that Boston Celtics’ Rasheed Wallace has been fined $30,000 for calling out the officials after their game against Toronto. He called Toronto Raptor Hedo Turkoglu a flopper and said the refs were overly officiating because players were intentionally hitting the deck. This fine comes on the heels of several other fines of similar amounts issued against players in the NBA. The trend is clear: the NBA won’t tolerate criticism of its officials in any public forum, either on television or through a blog.
Rasheed Wallace is a vocal player, to be sure. He has already picked up 7 technical fouls this season, part of the 297 (NBA career leader) he has in his career. He has picked up a reputation as a player who likes to pick fights with referees. The NBA usually lets it go with just the technical or the occasional ejection (29). But this time it is clear that the NBA thought Wallace went too far. It is one thing to talk to a referee during a game, but jawing off against the officiating in general seems to have crossed a line. And because of Wallace’s history, it seems to me that the NBA chose to make a small example of him. Of all the fines levied against players for this offense in recent days, his was the highest. And looking at his exact words, it didn’t seem like he even really called the officiating poor. He called the situation “garbage,” but his focus was on referees giving too much credit too players who flop around. This seems to be more an indictment of players in the NBA, not referees. Levying such a fine against Wallace sends a message to other players: we will come after you if you come after us.
Was Wallace Right?
It is the opinion of this writer that flopping is a real problem in the NBA. Players have begun to copy the overacting so prevalent in professional soccer, and it is “watering down the game,” as Rasheed Wallace said. It is only recently that basketball offense became all about drawing the foul and getting to the free throw line. This has been a change for the worse in the way basketball is played. Look at the Celtics of the 80s, the golden age of the Celtics. Those teams’ offenses were not known for driving to the basket with reckless abandon, sticking out every extremity in the hopes of drawing a foul, then overplaying it to the point that the ref has to call it. Those offenses were based around passing and good strong perimeter shooting. The Celtics of today try to that (they do record plenty of assists each game), but they are just as guilty of aggrandizing injury as every other team. Paul Pierce is one of the worst when it comes to flopping and intentionally trying to draw a foul. Flopping is a new problem in the NBA, and I think it really makes the game weaker.
Should Players Call Out Officials?
Every person has the right to say whatever he or she chooses to say, according to the Bill of Rights. However, the problem is that players sign contracts, making them employees of the NBA. If you speak out against your boss, there is going to be consequences. Personally, I think the quality of officiating in the NBA has been poor this season. So I have sympathy for the players who get so frustrated that they need to lash out verbally against what is a real problem in the NBA. However, the proper forum for this is through their players’ union, the organization hired to represent them to their bosses. Calling an official out through a blog or a post-game interview is a meaningless act that will do nothing to cause real change in the NBA.