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How do you call a foul? How does the official call of foul? Well, that's that's terrible, I'm sorry, referees are supposed to be invisible, you shouldn't know their names, but in 2007, a referee stepped into the spotlight. His name was Tim Donaghy and he pissed a lot of people off.
My name is Rasheed Wallace.
I'm a 16 year NBA veteran, four time NBA all star and 2004 NBA champ. I forgot the team we were playing, but, you know, ref called a foul on me and he was facing a table, you know, putting in over a three zero foul or whatever. Right now, Donaghy is a way on the other side of the court and he hits me with a ten technophile.
She was, and it shocks everybody because I didn't I didn't say, you know, and I didn't argue with this article, so he gave me a talking about some I threw the ball that I'm like I'm like, yo, the man is less than four feet from me. If I really wanted to hit him, I could really hit him. So what are you talking about?
I'm throwing the ball and throw it in another text and a technical foul on receivables he's got. Only Jack and me are. That's all right now I'm going to change up, I watch the game and everything he knows. And so after the game, everybody is gone and we're standing on a loading dock. So here come the three referees walking down the ramp. I said, sit down. Here's the joke. I'm a get my money back for that bullshit.
Technical things like what I said you heard. I said I'm getting my money back from that bullshit cost you making it too obvious. And then that's when he came at me. And so we went back and forth, back and forth. Do I go home back a day or two later and be a security? Hey, hey, you know what happened out there on the loading dock? And so I thought I'd say I told that she nazareth's that he was cheating.
And I thought, oh, he's making it too obvious. So dispended me seven games at the time. It cost me one or two million years later, I'm on vacation. I get a call. There was Joe do more things like, hey, I hope you enjoy yourself. You know, I hate to bother you on your vacation, but he's like, you were right.
Referee Tim Donaghy had admitted that he had illegally bet on geek's games, he himself had officiated. Tim Donaghy is a convicted felon. He's admitted that he's betting on games. As far as we know, there's absolutely no evidence whatsoever that indicts other officials.
But I'll wait for this investigation to run its course because we think we have here a rogue, isolated criminal. If we have a shadow of felons in our league, it'll come out. We will never be able to hide. What if I told you the NBA's rogue isolated referee wasn't the only one and that this is the story the NBA doesn't want you to hear?
You know, everybody thinks she was crazy. I'm the crazy one for calling what I see. I'm not saying that every referee in the NBA at the time when I was playing with the cheater or was was cheating me, but it was one of the guys and it was definitely more to one.
This is the biggest scandal in NBA history, but it's not a story about basketball, it's a story about money and how powerful people make problems disappear. I'm Tim Livingston. This is whistleblower. Episode one, The Rogue Ref. I'm a writer and journalist based in L.A. and I've been trying to make this podcast for eight years for reasons that will soon become clear, it's been pretty much impossible to make. The story for me starts in 2012, five years after what is commonly referred to as simply the NBA betting scandal.
I wrote an article about disgraced referee Tim Donaghy or Donaghy, depending on who's talking, which said in so many words, yeah, Donaghy messed up. He broke the law. He compromise the integrity of the game and deserves to be a pariah. But the article also addressed the elephant in the room that everyone to that point had ignored. According to Donaghey, it wasn't him who was fixing games. It was the NBA. Everyone who follows basketball knows that TV ratings drive the NBA multibillion dollar television contracts were and are the league's primary source of revenue.
And he claimed that the league and its referees had an understanding, Donna, he said the refs use their whistles, their ability to control the game to ensure marquee players and teams advance throughout the playoffs. Think about it.
The casual fan wasn't going to tune into the finals to see a small market team with players they've never heard of. The casual fan was going to tune into the finals to see Michael Jordan, Shaq, Kobe. In my article, I said that I believed a lot of what Donahue was saying about the NBA as a fan, I watch those games and something wasn't right. After the article got published, I got an email from Tim Donaghy thanking me for writing it.
I never expected Donaghy to read the article, let alone thank me for writing it. But after an hour of Googling, I realized something nobody had ever written anything defending this guy.
Commissioner David Stern calls it the worst situation in the 40 years he's worked at the NBA. But he says he thinks the betting scandal begins and ends with one referee.
Story released today by ESPN. The magazine outlines a two year investigation which looked at a sample of 40 games officiated by Donaghy and feels there is clear evidence that, in fact, Donaghy was fixing the game. Now, a late whistle, Tim Donaghy outside official made the call. This is not something that is anything other than an act of betrayal of what we know in sports. As a sacred trust, the league must find a way to permanently remove the stain of Tim Donaghy.
What I found surprising is that I wrote my article five years after the scandal, and I couldn't find any other writers who acknowledge that Donoghue's claims about the NBA's netherworld.
The idea that this scandal could go far deeper than one rogue ref could have merit.
I replied to Tim's email and then he sent me a response. I'll never forget it said, thank you so much. There were 20 O's and so my kids will read it someday. My kids will read it someday. That line has always stuck with me reading that original article today. There are some things I stand by, some things that make me cringe. But that correspondence with Tim Donaghy kicked off an eight year odyssey to find out what really happened in the biggest scandal in NBA history.
So what really happened?
All I remember about the Tim Donaghy scandal is that he was a huge scumbag, thinking to myself, there's no way that this is the only dude who's doing. The people went back and looked at calls and recognizing, oh, he did ref in those really controversial Western Conference finals games, or at least that Game six for sure. It became obvious it would be easy for a referee to fix games. The fact that he was the only person they went after was sort of a sign that the NBA was trying to cover up a bigger problem.
There's an unbelievable amount of misinformation when it comes to the Donaghy scandal to break down the facts of the case piece by piece, here's our friend, Sopranos star Michael Imperioli.
Money. It's all about the money, but whose money are we talking about? This scandal isn't about a referee putting a few pennies in his piggy bank. No, it's about the Gambino crime family. One of the five American mafia families and how they were making truckloads of money off this ref.
And it was all going great until everything went to shit. Here's how it flew off the rails in.
Twenty six, members of the Gambino crime family were caught on an FBI wiretap bragging about how they had an NBA ref in their pocket.
From 2003 to 2007, the Gambino and other professional betting syndicates earned hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars on this one referee's games, all from one ref.
The refs name was, you guessed it, Tim Donaghy.
He was betting on most of the games he called during this time. And it wasn't just the betting markets that Donaghy and the Mafia were manipulating.
It was also the games themselves. You know, those things the millions of fans completely lose their shit over.
When the story broke, Donaghy was labeled a rogue, isolated criminal by David Stern in the NBA. And for its part, the American sports media took that bait, hook, line and sinker without blink.
Since then, Donaghy has maintained that he reffed every game straight up, even the games he had money on. Huh?
Despite being an admitted gambling addict, Donaghy claims that he consistently suppressed the urge to aid his bet with incorrect calls, insisting that his integrity as an official wouldn't allow him to do so. OK, Donaghy ultimately pleaded guilty to two federal charges and was sentenced to 15 months in a federal pen.
And that was the end of that, right? On October 2nd, 2008, nine days after Donaghey began his 15 month prison sentence, the NBA released the findings of its internal investigation, according to Commissioner David Stern.
The goal of the report was to create the most effective possible system to monitor illegal gambling and preserve the game's integrity. The report was written by attorney Lawrence Pedowitz and known as the Pedowitz Report.
The Petraeus report found that fifty two of 57 referees, 91 percent, had engaged in some form betting prohibited by the NBA.
Thirty three referees admitted to gambling in casinos, 37 bought lotto tickets, 16 referees admitted to betting on non NBA sporting events, all denied using bookmakers.
The report, quote, discovered no information suggesting that any NBA referee other than Tim Donaghy has bet on NBA games or leaked confidential NBA information to gamblers.
Tim Donaghy did not cooperate in the Pedowitz Report because I want to spend as much time as I can. I'm very interested in the conversation we're about to have with Tim Donaghy, who is one of the most disgraced officials in the history of American sports. That's Angelo Cataldi, the top sports radio host. And Don, in his hometown of Philadelphia, baggage go on.
And Tim is here with us. Hi, Tim. Hey, good morning. Thanks for having me. When you become a raft, there are very specific rules what you can and can't do with gambling. Right. Tim, what are those rules? The rules when I was there where you weren't able to place a bet of any kind except at the horse track, just the horse racing. Yeah. Otherwise, no. So even when you were gambling on the golf courses, which so many refs did, that technically was a violation of the contract.
Yes. All right. But they did it anyway. Yes.
No one Donaghy is saying about other referees per the Pedowitz report is correct. Referees were allowed to bet at the horse track, but nowhere else.
Sure. When did you cross the line into sports betting and why did you do it? I crossed the line when I started hanging out at the country clubs and, you know, betting on sports, college or pro, and then eventually spilled over into betting on NBA and eventually NBA games that I officiated. As to why I did it, you know, I just made some poor choices and crossed some lines that I shouldn't be near. What percentage of NBA bets were you hitting on?
Over 80 percent. Yeah. And here's what really amazed me about this. You did bet occasionally on games you officiated. Is that true? Yes. Here's where I'm really having a hard time with this tip. You maintain very strongly. You never fix the game. You never did a game and called actual plays that would affect who won and who lost. But what if it was close and one call could affect the outcome? You would not make that call.
You called it straight up every single time. Yeah. And in fact, you know, Phil Scala, who was a supervisory special agent, said that I had told the truth at every turn and it was never a situation where we had so many losses that I needed a win and in fact, a loss here. And there was good because we won so much. I was afraid red flags were going up all over the place.
Donaghy sticks this company line in every interview. When asked about game fixing, he says in so many words, the FBI did a thorough investigation and exonerated me. Then he named drop's agent Phil Schola. Phil Schola, as you'll come to find out, is a very important character in this story. After he says those two things, most interviewers don't really press him because the FBI exonerated me sounds pretty legit.
Even 60 Minutes, who interviewed him right after he got out of prison in 2009, didn't take them to task for insisting that you're betting did not influence the way you called a game. Why should we believe you?
Because the FBI did a thorough investigation and even the NBA concluded that I did not fix games in the NBA. The truth is, there are so many moving parts in this scandal that most people just don't know enough to challenge him on specific details of the case. Plus, how can you prove that Donaghy is not telling the truth? Yeah, sure. He made some dubious foul calls. Doesn't every NBA referee I sat down with Andrew Cataldi, the Philadelphia radio host who previously heard interviewing Donaghy to get his opinion on the disgraced ref.
This is how he described their interview. Well, one of the more perplexing interviews I ever did, because we somewhat covered the story as it was unfold and it was 15 minutes, I almost never do more than 10 with anyone. But I thought it was a really interesting story. Fifteen minutes after I stopped talking to him, I don't think I had any better handle on the story than I did before. So 13 years later, not even the most ardent basketball fans have any clue of what happened in the biggest scandal in NBA history.
They don't know from Donaghy, aside from the government side or from the NBA side. And why don't they know it's not from a lack of interest? At least I don't think it is. It's because everyone in the scandal has something to hide.
You know, up just calling to check in, you get those results yet. Recording, I am actually, I am. That's Doug Matika, my partner in this project we connected after I wrote the article through a mutual friend who believe you were both equally passionate about injustice in sports, all of which as a negative. Fantastic. I can drop off whatever you want to come by like 10. Am I Paroxetine.
In the summer of 2014, I got an email from Tim Donaghy, he was flying in with his daughter to go to Disneyland and he asked if Doug and I wanted to drive down and meet up in person, to which I replied, hell yes. Tim Donaghy, we absolutely want to meet you at Disneyland. I mean, what do you remember of us sitting down with them? I remember everything that's fun. I have an incredibly vivid memory about that meeting.
I remember we pulled up to Disneyland, the Disneyland Hotel. He was sitting in the lobby. We walked to Goofus Kitchen. I was totally cognizant in the moment of how bizarre it all was. We sat down with him for three hours and he told us the most salacious stuff about NBA referees, and they all knew all this about each other. This was open secrets about who they were, fucking their drug habits, their various schemes, some of which are public, some of which aren't.
And that's why it was just so unbelievably fascinating that these fifty five to fifty seven smart guys were in charge of policing a multibillion dollar industry. It's like Mark Cuban said, none of these guys were equipped to manage Dairy Queen. I wouldn't trust any of them. Whenever I think about the Disney Land thing, it's what was so fascinating is that all of these refs knew everything that was going on, but only these refs knew everything that was going on.
It was completely self-contained. And all of a sudden we were in. Well, I think Donaghy came out and said that this was happening, but nobody listened. Right. So we got to hear the stories that he wouldn't even tell the press because they were potentially life ruining and too salacious. Yeah. And I remember as he started relaying all these stories, the feeling in me was I wanted to kick you under the table every couple seconds because he kept dropping these bombs.
I remember Tim Donaghy eyes. It was like a sad puppy dog. But also he just it meant the world that we're listening to him. And the next thing I know, we're back in the car or like we're about to get in the car. And you you just you looked at me and you remember what you said as we were getting in the car. I do. I do do.
I mean, is that I looked at you and I said, Doug, I think I'm friends with Tim Donahue as a journalist. It's my job to divulge all sides. I'm friends with he now. But will I be friends with him after this?
I don't know. But I think it's important that people know his side of the story. It's important for people to know all these years later, the truth about the NBA betting scandal.
Tim, what's going on? Hey, how are you doing? I'm doing well. How you been? Good. Good news going good. Just want to give you a quick buzz. I know for a while you've been interested in doing this podcast thing that you wanted to work on. And I just started to think about it. If you're still interested, I think now would be a good time. Coming up this season on Whistleblower, keep flipping the Daily News with the lines in the paper and saying, pick me some winners and I rattled off three games to them.
And, you know, the next day he called me laughing, joking around, saying, is it that easy? And I just said, yeah. The FBI, far from concluding he didn't fix games, the FBI didn't look. And that's the fundamental problem. It's not about who wins lose. It's about the line. And so if you have an NBA referee, the NBA basketball games, the easiest game to work with of those seven losses, the team you lost, like I left two losses out of my book because they were Scott Foster's clubs.
I never really talk about officiating anything like that for some is just rude and arrogant. But I don't think you should be able to even officiate shooter games anymore.
We always had a thing in our mind that what if there's somebody out there really trying to dictate these games? This is big business. And the question is, is it being acted out fairly for well over a decade?
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has been one of the NBA's most vociferous critics of its officiating system out of a million refs around the world. We have this incestuous group of refs that we've hired literally brothers since high school, safe cities. So when your team is better, you'll get those calls. And he said, why do we have to wait? Why should anybody have to wait?
There was a time out called in Phil Jackson, Rush mean Michael Jordan Rush me and Phil Jackson said real arrogant late. They may want that call to travel. And then he pointed at Michael Jordan, they said, but they don't want that called on. I 100 percent believe that they can program the outcome of a game by who they select as the referee. Whistleblowers are production of tenderfoot TV and whistleblower media in association with Chanes 13, Donnel Allbright and Pam Lindsay are executive producers on behalf of Tenderfoot TV, myself and Doug Matika, our creators and executive producers on behalf of whistleblower media.
Our co executive producer is colocation. Our lead producer is Alex Best Steps. Co producers are Mason Lindsay, Matt Keller and Paul Koshary. Sound Design Mixing and Mastering by Cooper Skinner. Original music is by makeup and vanity cover design and illustration by Mr. Sole Special thanks to Oren Rosenbaum and Grace Royer at Uta Reynaud in the North Group backed Media and Marketing Station 16, Paul Anderson and Nick Parnell of Workhouse Media Max Hacker and John Viguerie's The Teen was a tenderfoot TV and Caden's 13.
And to Michael Imperioli, check out his new podcast, Talking Sopranos, wherever you get your podcasts. Lastly, thank you to Liz Livingston and Tallie, revered for your invaluable insights and for never letting us give up on this story.
For more information about the podcast, visit whistleblower pod dotcom.
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