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Lately, some national sports stories have fallen off the table. For instance, what happened to Floyd Landis? Where's Ricky Williams? And, what's up with the NBA referee scandal?

Donald Rumsfeld

It's been three weeks since the New York Post broke the story that NBA referee Tim Donaghy was being investigated for betting on basketball games and providing information about games to outsiders.

Four days after the story came out, NBA commissioner David Stern held a press conference. His main points were: he learned of this for the first time on June 20 by way of a telephone conversation with the FBI. To his knowledge, only one "rogue, isolated criminal" was involved. He said the NBA has the best security system in sports, "...headed by...former FBI head of the Buffalo office.... We have in house representatives that are from Secret Service, U.S. Army, New York Police Department...

"...includes a security representative with respect to every NBA team...for the most part either FBI retired, local police, in some cases DEA.... We are in continuous conversation with DEA, the FBI section on organized crime which deals with sports betting, and with the Homeland Security Department...subject our referees to extensive security checks...personal background checks that cover credit, bank account, litigation, civil and criminal, assets including real property, debt, you name it...under the guidance of the former head of worldwide operations for the CIA."

Pretty impressive. Except for Donaghy. He came to Stern's attention by accident. Donaghy's name was mentioned while the FBI was wiretapping someone else.

Funny about Donaghy: in 1995 he was charged with harassing and stalking a man in Haverton Township, Pennsylvania. In 2002 he was charged with disorderly conduct and harassment of his postman. In 2004 he was suspended from Radley Run Country Club for following his neighbor's wife around the grounds while screaming obscenities. In 2005, he was sued by a neighbor for harassment, invasion of privacy, vandalizing property, and stalking. Donaghy moved to Florida in 2005 and bought a million-dollar house.

Most of this could have been gleaned from one session on Lexis-Nexis. The NBA must have known about some of this, since they dispatched an investigator to Donaghy's 'hood. He heard the rumors that Donaghy bet on golf games, neighborhood poker games, and at an Atlantic City casino. According to a Daily News story, the investigator never asked about betting on basketball.

Stern said his security people checked every casino in Atlantic City and Las Vegas about Donaghy's gambling and found no evidence. I'd like to see a list of casinos contacted, who they talked to in each casino, and what they asked. In any case, Donaghy had to be betting games through bookies -- if, that is, he did bet.

At first, Donaghy's arrest was scheduled for Monday or Tuesday, July 23 and 24, and Donaghy was said to be cooperating. Then, he was due to check in to the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn on Thursday, July 26. No go. His next appointment was set for sometime during the work week of July 30 to August 3. Another no-show. And since then, silence.

Stern said he first learned of the alleged crime on June 20. So, what was Stern doing between June 20 and when the New York Post story broke on July 20?

What would you do? You're sitting on news that will rock your organization. The FBI wants you to be quiet. Okay, I'll rephrase the question: "What would you do quietly?"

The first, second, and third question I'd have is, "Was anybody else involved?" Donaghy's alleged involvement goes back two years. He refereed 139 regular season games, 8 playoff games, and 4 preseason games. I'd have my people and a whole bunch of new people go over every game, every minute Donaghy refereed.

I'd be concerned that my guys didn't find him first. I'd rethink all my security arrangements. I'd recheck every referee, supervisor, manager, and front-office drone. Recheck them with a new crew.

Instead, we have an NBA spokesman telling the Sporting News, "...the league won't comment further on the Donaghy investigation or any changes in its officiating policy until the federal probe is finished."

It's beginning to look like Rumsfeld's Abu Ghraib prison defense. First, announce that nine investigations are going on (we're on top of this), but you can't comment until the investigations are complete (and the trials and appeals), and then proceed as usual. If Donaghy is arrested and takes a plea bargain, then there won't be a public trial, which means no witnesses, no cross-examinations. The similarity between the NBA and Rumsfeld will be whole.

Here's the first marker on Stern's Abu Ghraib trail. No one has been fired.

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