Paul vs. Holtkamp: If NBA Officials Really Are Too Sensitive, Gender Has Nothing To Do With It
By Ken K. Gourdin
Note: While other matters intruded to prevent my posting this on the blog in a more timely manner, I began to write it some time ago. Better late than never, I suppose.
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NBA star Chris Paul of the LA Clippers recently criticized referee Lauren Holtkamp for assessing him with a technical foul. See the following address, last accessed March 12, 2015: http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/basketball/chris-paul-rips-female-ref-lauren-holtkamp-tech-call-article-1.2105486.
Paul apparently feels Holtkamp is too thin-skinned. If Holtkamp is simply hypersensitive, she’s far from alone: while players and coaches may be reluctant to go on the record criticizing the league or its officials for fear of their pocketbooks taking a hit, if their off-the-record or on-background comments are any indication, such hypersensitivity among officials (the vast majority of whom are, of course, men) seems rather common.
Whether the league or its officials, as a rule, are hypersensitive, Paul can’t win. Even if his beef is with Lauren Holtkamp, the NBA referee, and not with Lauren Holtkamp, the woman, few people who have read or who have heard of his displeasure are going to conclude that it’s the first rather than the second. And if the NBA Referees Union simply wanted to maintain an “old boys club,” it didn’t have to defend Holtkamp publicly; the union simply could have remained silent, but defend her it did. (See the link on the same page about the union’s defense of Holtkamp.)
The more he says, “No, really: I honestly don’t care that she’s a woman,” the greater the likelihood is that people will wonder, Methinks thou dost protest too much. And even if he really doesn’t care about Holtkamp’s gender, increasingly, it will seem as though his last available, feeble defense will be, “No, really: some of my best friends are women.”
I’m not familiar with all of the circumstances surrounding former referee Dee Kantner’s exit from the NBA. While I’m far from certain, and while I welcome correction, I believe the league simply conducted a regular review of her performance and decided not to retain her. And unless I’m really missing something (and that would be saying something, since my antennae tend to perk up whenever I read or hear the word lawsuit), as far as I know, she didn’t file a gender discrimination suit against the NBA for its decision not to retain her. As hard as it may have been, and no matter how tragic the end of her career as an NBA official, Kantner simply moved on.
Perhaps, eventually, the league will decide to not retain Holtkamp. If it does, it will do so for the same reason it decides to not retain other officials: not because of her gender, but because her performance does not warrant it. NBA Players Association presidents come and go. So do officials. But judging by the length of many officials’ tenure in the league as compared with the limited terms of Players Association presidents, turnover among the latter is much more frequent than it is among the former.
If on the off chance that Paul hasn’t yet done so (despite his own lengthening tenure as an NBA player) he had better get used to it.