In an Associated Press story, it was reported that retired NBA commissioner David Stern is advising a group looking to locate a casino resort in New Bedford, Massachusetts. In the past month, current NBA commissioner Adam Sterling has been talking about changes in and regulation of the sports gambling industry. I find it fascinating that the only Big Four American sport that has really been hit by a gambling scandal in recent years is at the forefront of the controversial issue. It would seem to me that David Stern's involvement in a casino licensing effort might raise some eyebrows over what his involvement may have been while he was still with the NBA. My impression of Stern was always pretty positive and I would think there would have been a lot of opportunities for him following his retirement that had nothing to do with gambling.
All sports leaders tend to agree that the biggest threat to popularity is a loss of credibility or trust in the outcomes of their games or matches. Even the hint of impropriety is taken very seriously. We need to look no farther than Pete Rose's lifetime ban from baseball, including his exclusion from the Hall of Fame, to see how far a sport will go to distance itself from gambling. On the other hand, there is a lot of hypocrisy demonstrated by sports league's that appear to support the interests of the gaming industry. The best example is the injury report mandated by the NFL. I've always questioned the practice, more than once in posts on this very blog, and the rationale for it beyond informing gamblers of the health status of teams they want to bet on.
Don't get me wrong, I am not against gambling. I regularly buy lottery tickets, participate in betting pools, bet on games and occasionally visit casinos. But I'm not naive enough to think that in some instances, it's possible for gambling money to be used to influence the outcome of a game or match. Not so much for the players, as they're paid pretty handsomely for their efforts. But the same can't necessarily be said about the officials or other lesser public participants. The NBA's scandal involved referee Tim Donaghy using his ability to make calls to influence the point spreads of games. Are we to believe that he's the only one that ever did that in any sport?
So this brings me back to the NBA's current and past commissioner, by their comments and actions, appearing to be in support of gambling. I'm in no way accusing them of anything, but I do find it curious. Certainly, Adam Silver's motives are to bring the practice out into the open, hoping to minimize the involvement of illegal operations. By the same token, David Stern is retired and presumably has no further direct involvement in league activities. I would certainly be interested in hearing comments from readers on whether these recent events make you at least pause and wonder what's really going on.
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