From the Basement | Should referees be fined for mistakes?

Benny Greenspan, Staff Reporter

referees fine
Nathan Rich

The other weekend my Saturday night was ruined. As a longtime Los Angeles Lakers fan, I was thrilled to see a struggling Lakers team in a tie game against our — yes I group myself with the team — rivals, the top-seeded Boston Celtics. More than that, coming out of a timeout with 4 seconds left and the ball, our fate was in LeBron James’ hands. 

Or so I thought. When James drove to the basket at full speed, Jayson Tatum slapped his left arm while going for the block. This altered the shot, causing it to result in a miss. More importantly, the direct hit was left uncalled by the official standing 2 feet away from the play. Game goes to overtime. Celtics win. 

Now, while I am overreacting in solely blaming the officials for the Lakers losing a game consisting of 48 minutes plus a 5 minute overtime period, this is far from the first time in sports history that a game has been “decided” by poor officiating. 

To use an example where my team was on the other side, in 2019 the New Orleans Saints had the opportunity to ice the game against my hometown Los Angeles Rams and go to the Super Bowl, when a third down throw was ruled incomplete. This third down incompletion was not your average incomplete pass, as while the ball was thrown, Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman cleaned out Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis. The official, who almost trampled over the shoved Lewis, kept the penalty flag in his pocket, and the pass remained incomplete. Game goes to overtime. Rams win. 

Both instances show how critical officiating errors have directly impacted the result of a game. And on each occasion, no punishment has been given to the officials. In fact, the closest thing to a consequence has been the officials stating that they will have “sleepless nights” after the Lakers loss. They were not alone. 

Now, I can’t just demand that the officials get every call right. After all, these plays happen in split seconds, with the referees having to make a decision about a foul or penalty at a rapid pace. However, making these split decisions in a professional setting is what they train to do, and failure to do your job at the highest level correctly should result in some consequence other than potential insomnia. 

The most logical punishment would be a fine that varies depending on how critical the error was.  In sports, players get fined regularly for their transgressions, such as late hits in the NFL or technical fouls in the NBA. The details of these fines definitely are going to cause a lot of discussion: should they be charged the same percentage of salary as athletes? Should they only be fined if the mistake happens at the end of the game? 

Nevertheless, holding referees accountable for their mistakes would make sports more equitable. And it is sure to cause a better night’s sleep for all involved.

Leave a Comment