The player/official dynamic can be a difficult one to navigate in any sport. In the NBA, the relationship has deteriorated so much over the past 30-plus years that the league looked into ways to repair it. Senior vice president of referee operations and director of officials (can we condense this title?) Bob Delaney came up with a simple idea that seems to be working.
Stop using the F-word when talking to officials.
But that’s not exactly it — via this Sporting News story, you can still use the F-word but it’s a matter of how you use the F-word.
Especially remarkable is the emphasis put on one word in particular: the f-bomb. Referees, who are not supposed to use foul language at all, are much more inclined to slap a technical on a player or coach once the f-word is uttered. Delaney noted that, “Internal affairs at any police department will tell you that 90 percent of complaints that come in on police officers, the word ‘f—‘ is used at some point, because of how it changes the dynamics in that conversation.” The word heightens hostility. NBA refs have had to think about the word more completely in the last two years.
“We’re going to be understanding that, if there are words used, cursing is not an automatic technical,” Delaney said. “It’s how you say it, it’s where you use it. We said this to the players. If you used it as an adjective, you’re probably going to be all right, if you used it as a noun, you probably have a problem. If you don’t know the difference, we’re going to back to diagramming sentences. You have to have knowledge of how you are presenting yourself. There is a difference between someone saying, ‘Is that a f—ing foul?’ and, ‘Hey, F—o, is that a foul?’”
Let me tell you something: If you see me refereeing your basketball game at your local Y and you disagree with my call, I demand you say, “Hey, F—o, is that a foul?” I will hit you with a technical if you ask about a foul and don’t call me F—o.