How are NBA referees punished and disciplined for wrong, and non-calls? Understanding Adam Silver's comments about referee accountability

Veteran NBA official Scott Foster
Veteran NBA official Scott Foster

Countless NBA fans have complained about in-game officiating this season. Many have asserted that referees should receive punishment for blatant missed calls in crucial parts of games.

However, according to NBA commissioner Adam Silver, referees are already held accountable and disciplined for making critical errors. Their discipline is just kept private by the league.

"We don't publicize discipline for officials. We don't think that will be appropriate," Silver said in a recent interview with ESPN's Sage Steele on SportsCenter.

He then went on to explain that referees who have the best track record are assigned to the most important games, particularly in the playoffs. Meanwhile, referees who consistently miss critical calls in the regular season do not get to progress into the playoffs.

Likewise, officials who consistently miss critical calls in the early rounds of the playoffs do not get to progress to the later rounds.

Silver also explained that the way officials carry themselves on the court while dealing with players also impacts their assignments:

"But their assignments are affected by the quality of their calls, whether or not they progress into the playoffs and then round by round is impacted by the accuracy of their calls and their demeanor on the floor.
"So there is a system for overseeing and making those judgments about officials. But more to your earlier point about getting the calls right, that's again not a new issue."

So whether fans like it or not, it appears the NBA already has its system in place for dealing with poor officiating.

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Adam Silver on NBA referees' critical missed call on LeBron James

LA Lakers and Boston Celtics stars LeBron James (#6) and Jayson Tatum (#0)
LA Lakers and Boston Celtics stars LeBron James (#6) and Jayson Tatum (#0)

The most infamous missed call of this season came on Jan. 28 when LeBron James and the LA Lakers took on Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics.

With the game tied in the closing seconds, James drove to the basket for a potential game-winning layup. He was then hit in the arm by Tatum, causing him to miss the shot, but no call was made. The game then went into overtime, where Boston ended up winning 125-121.

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Many Lakers fans felt that their team was robbed of a win in that game. The NBA referees union subsequently posted an apology on Twitter the next day and took responsibility for the missed call.

However, fans were still not satisfied with the apology as it couldn’t change the outcome of the game.

Adam Silver addressed this controversial missed call during his interview with ESPN, explaining the difficulties involved with trying to correct non-calls.

"I know some people in that particular call you mentioned in that Celtics-Lakers game were upset that there was no opportunity for replay," Silver said.
"Many people focused on the coach not having another challenge. But remember, in our league, you can't challenge a non-call. And there's a lot of difficulty there when you get into non-call. You could suggest every moment of a game is a non-call when a call isn't being made in a way."

He then explained that the league will have to look at solutions for missed calls as his goal is to get every call right:

"But so what's the beginning and the end of the play? And if indeed the officials missed the foul but then the other team is saying, 'well, go back 15 seconds, they missed something else there,' it's not an easy issue.
"But it's something we're going to look at because my personal view is I don't mind the challenge system but also think the ultimate goal is to get it right, not put the pressure on the coach in terms of that additional tactic on using their challenge appropriately," Silver said.

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Edited by Anantaajith Raghuraman