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The National Basketball Referees Association has complained to the NBA that Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban tries to gain a competitive advantage “via threats and intimidation,” according to The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Cuban has long had a contentious relationship with referees, accruing over $1 million in fines for criticizing officials and questioning their training, according to Wojnarowski.
The Vertical obtained a series of correspondences between the NBRA and NBA over the past year focused on officials’ displeasure with Cuban’s behavior.
According to Wojnarowski, in a recent letter to the NBA, NBRA general counsel Lee Sahem outlined a “lengthy pattern of documented violations” of the NBA’s constitution by Cuban. After the NBA rejected the union’s assertion, Sahem responded:
“No other owner has communicated to our members with such force that he exercises control over their careers. He has communicated that he played a pivotal role in the termination of Kevin Fehr, a referee who met league performance standards. He has communicated to an NBRA board member, during contract negotiations, that the referees would continue to be at-will employees. He has told a referee, during a game, that he follows that referee’s game reports.”
Wojnarowski reports that during a telephone conference call between the union and the league, several referees expressed a lack of support from the league over how it handles Cuban’s behavior toward officials.
In a letter from the NBA to the referee’s union, the NBA rejected the idea that Cuban has any influence on the employment decisions of the officials.
The referee’s union reportedly feels Cuban’s behavior has worsened this season after improving in the latter half of the 2015-16 season following a memo from the league warning teams and players of harsher penalties for misconduct. Wojnarowski reports that the union recently cited two incidents in which Cuban used his proximity to the court to yell at refs. The NBA responded that the incidents were “borderline” and didn’t break any rules.
Cuban issued a lengthy statement to The Vertical, saying, “To suggest I have influence is to suggest that the NBA officials can be influenced. If an official can be influenced by pressure from anyone they should not be in the NBA. I don’t believe they can be influenced.”