After pleading guilty in 2007 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and transmit gambling information, former NBA referee Tim Donaghy is back in the news. In an in-depth report, ESPN analyzed the games Donaghy officiated and interviewed his co-conspirators. The findings reveal that Donaghy did more than just bet on the games he worked – he fixed them.
The scheme was relatively simple. Donaghy would predict if a team playing in one of his games would cover the spread. If Donaghy was right, he received $2,000 from his gambling associates. If he was wrong – which he rarely was – he didn’t lose anything.
ESPN’s analysis shows that the chances that an unbiased referee would make the same calls as Donaghy was 6,155-to-1. The revelation doesn’t just challenge what Donaghy alleged, it challenges the NBA’s party line that games can’t be fixed. It’s unclear whether these revelations will have any impact on the recent trend towards legalizing professional sports gambling.
Thomas “Buddy” Bardenwerper is an Entertainment Highlight Contributor for the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law and a current first year student at Harvard Law School (Class of 2021).