Stern shaken by probe

STEVE SIMMONS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:17 AM ET

A shaken and sombre David Stern walked slowly to the podium and carefully chose his words as he detailed, within strict limitations, "the worst situation I have ever experienced" in the NBA.

"I feel betrayed by what happened on behalf of the sport," the commissioner said yesterday, speaking at a most uncomfortable and revealing news conference. "We think we have here a rogue, isolated criminal here," Stern said. "I'm not going to stand here and say it didn't happen.

"I'm aware of the threat that faces all sports ... We think about that all time. My reaction was 'I can't believe it's happening to us.' "

It is happening and it has happened. Veteran league referee Tim Donaghy, who has yet to be charged with any crime, was verbally found guilty by Stern yesterday for gambling on NBA games that he may or may not have officiated, and for providing inside information to others for the purpose of allowing them to profit through gambling.

"I don't know the number of games," said Stern, who was under clear instructions from the FBI not to reveal anything that could hamper its investigation . "I don't know which games."

Stern did lay out a time line that contradicts some of the newspaper reports and league criticisms of previous days. According to Stern, he received a telephone call from the FBI on June 20 of this year, indicating it wanted to talk to him about a "referee alleged to be gambling on games."

Stern met with the FBI one day later.

Upon learning what the FBI knew, Stern was instructed not to fire Donaghy because there was concern his doing so would somehow hinder the investigation. On July 9, fewer than three weeks later, the league received and accepted a letter of resignation from Donaghy.

Stern was adamant the league had no knowledge of the investigation while Donaghy was working NBA playoff games.

Previously, the league had launched its own investigation into Donaghy's personal legal problems with neighbours that was unrelated to gambling.

Stern has not spoken to Donaghy since he was informed of the investigation and has only communicated with Donaghy's lawyer.

To the best of his knowledge, Stern said Donaghy is "the only referee" involved.

"If that changes tomorrow, I will so inform everybody," Stern said.

While Donaghy had yet to be charged, Stern compared his actions to that of a corrupt judge.

When asked if he knew Donaghy did the things he is accusing him of, Stern said: "His lawyer informed us that he's contemplating a plea."

Stern did dodge some of the more specific questions at the news conference, often uncharacteristically pausing before answering, indicating that all his knowledge of the situation was "second hand" and he had to "figure out a way between what we could say and what we couldn't say."

At other times, he declined to answer, saying: "I'm not authorized to say that."

The NBA is completely co-operating with the authorities and won't begin its own in-house investigation until after charges have been laid.

When asked if he could specifically identify which games had been compromised or gambled on, Stern said: "I have to wait. That has been made clear to me.

"We appreciate what they (FBI) are doing and don't want to compromise their situation in any way ... we're extraordinarily thankful and appreciative of the efforts of the FBI informing us of the danger that is here.

"I'm aware that the World Cup (of soccer) is probably the greatest spectacle in world sports, in spite of referees (being caught) having been found to fix games specifically.

"And it's my hope the NBA will be accorded the benefit of the doubt."

That is the great challenge that awaits David Stern.

"Our fans are shaken by this and so are we."


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