By Scott Tibbs, October 18, 2010
"Obedience to lawful authority is the foundation of manly character." -- Robert E. Lee
When I was in high school, the principal/coach had a consistent warning for the basketball team. "What those zebras say out there goes. If you argue with them, you sit." We were required to present a good example on the court for other students, families in the stands, and the opposing team.
Contrast this to the griping and moaning you see in your average NBA game, where players constantly argue with officials over calls. It is almost expected that players will complain, which is why it came as such a shock when the NBA implemented new rules punishing players for complaining. (See here and here.) The players' union is even threatening a lawsuit, an absurd overreaction that demonstrates how spoiled pro athletes are.
The rule change is clearly a necessary step, but the NBA is going about it the wrong way. Whether you like it or not, the NBA has created a culture of complaining that is not going to change overnight. In order to prevent the product from being harmed (and to prevent frustrated fans from walking away from what they believe to be over officiated games) this rule change should be implemented gradually. But it should be implemented.
NBA players are role models, positive or negative, to millions of children and young people. When fans see that disrespect for authority is accepted at the professional level, it teaches that it is OK to disrespect authority, on the basketball court or anywhere else. We live in a culture that hates authority, and to the extent that the NBA can avoid setting a bad example, that is a good thing.
There are referees who abuse their authority. Hue Hollins is probably the most infamous example, with his bad calls against the Chicago Bulls in the playoffs. Even in these cases, the players, owners and coaches should respect the office of referee. (The fans, who are not under the authority of the referees, are another matter entirely.) Those with concerns about the abuse of authority should direct those concerns through the proper channels and the grievance process, so they do not set a bad example by openly defying legitimate authority.