NBA ref guilty: Now what?

NBA referee Tim Donaghy today pleaded guilty to two felony charges involved with his NBA betting scandal.

He told the court that he gave picks to bettors on what games they should bet on, based on his knowledge of league refs and how they interacted with players and coaches, and was paid if they turned out to be the right picks. That’s the more serious of the felony charges, wire fraud.

But he also told the court that he bet on basketball games, including games he was officiating. And while that’s a lesser charge — conspiracy to engage in wagering over state lines — it’s the more serious issue for NBA officials to address.

He faces up to 25 years in jail and a $25,000 fine.

Today’s plea hardly answers the biggest questions about Donaghy’s behavior. It’s one thing to give insider “scouting reports” on refs to gamblers. That’s bad enough. But still at issue is whether Donaghy actually made calls in an effort to turn the outcomes of games, and whether anyone else was involved in similar activities. The assumption has to be that the former is true, since he has admitted to betting on games. NBA commissioner David Stern has said that the latter is false, that Donaghy is a “rogue” official and that his actions were isolated incidents.

Federal investigators could get answers to these questions as part of Donaghy’s plea, but who knows when that will come, and whether it will become public?

Clearly, the NBA needs to answer such questions. In his news conference about the matter several weeks ago, Stern didn’t rule out any possibilities. Now that the case is getting settled in court, the NBA should be more free to pursue these questions that go beyond just the legality of what Donaghy did, and actually address what damage was done to the integrity of the game.

While today’s plea will be big news, it ultimately doesn’t shed much light.

Photo credit: Associated Press

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