NBA announces program to address relationship between referees, players

Five-part program aims to improve communication between both parties

Official release

Jan 26, 2018 2:53 PM ET

The NBA announced today a five-pronged initiative designed to address the on-court working relationship between NBA players and referees. The announcement was made by Byron Spruell, NBA President, League Operations.

“As a league, we take great pride in standing for the best things about sports: competition, teamwork, respect, sportsmanship, diversity and inclusion,” Spruell said. “Recently we have seen instances in which we have not lived up to our own collective standards with regard to sportsmanship.  It is important for us to place a renewed emphasis on proper communication and respect to make sure we are meeting the standards expected from all members of the NBA family.”

Recently appointed NBA Senior Vice President, Head of Referee Operations Michelle Johnson and former top-rated referee Monty McCutchen, who was named NBA Vice President, Head of Referee Development and Training in December, will oversee the program, which is detailed below:

1. Johnson, McCutchen and their staffs will conduct meetings with all 30 teams to discuss rules interpretations, on-court conduct and the expectations of NBA referees. These meetings will begin before the NBA All-Star break.

2. The league will re-emphasize its “Respect for the Game” rules with referees, coaches and players to ensure consistent enforcement of those violations.

3. The NBA Referee Operations department will expand its overall rules education initiative for coaches, players and team personnel to ensure clarity of the game’s rules and their proper interpretations.

4. Johnson and McCutchen will conduct enhanced training for the referees on conflict resolution. In addition, they will more closely monitor the on-court interactions of coaches, players and referees to ensure referee decorum meets league standards. 

5. Through the NBA’s Officiating Advisory Council, the league will create opportunities for engagement with all key stakeholders to find common ground between all parties.

Following the current season, the league will reassess the expected professional standards of coaches, players and referees and the penalties associated with falling short of those expectations.


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