Thursday, June 12, 2008

It's just criminal.

In the latest NBA scandal fueled by the downfall of Tim Donaghy, I haven't seen any news coverage of the most revealing word in the NBA's defensive posturing: criminal.

"There's one criminal here," says says David Stern, referring to Donaghy. Or check out this statement from Stern:

"He turned on basically all of his colleagues in an attempt to demonstrate that he is not the only one who engaged in criminal activity," Stern said Tuesday. "The U.S. Attorney's office, the FBI have fully investigated it, and Mr. Donaghy is the only one who is guilty of a crime. And he's going to be sentenced for that crime, regardless of these desperate attempts to implicate as many people as he can."

Criminal, crime, crime. If you look at other statements from the league offices, you'll see the same wording, over and over again.

Today's New York Times article does raise one way in which this language is fishy: "Stern's implication was that if the authorities had discovered other criminal misconduct, they would have acted on it. That is not necessarily the case, according to legal experts."

But there is another, deeper fishiness about this: Donaghy has alleged many abuses of power among NBA referees, abuses that would certainly violate professional ethics and possibly league rules. But few, if any, of these charges are allegations of criminal conduct--Donaghy is a criminal because of the way his misconduct connected with gambling.

Stern is issuing classic non-denial denials; such carefully parsed denials are nearly confessions of the misconduct they are crafted to keep silent. He is so far getting away with them.