By Mike Mazzeo | ESPN.com
TORONTO — National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts said any suggestion that Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul would be disrespectful toward women is “utterly ridiculous, outrageous and patently false,” hours after the head of the National Basketball Referees Association called the All-Star’s comments on official Lauren Holtkamp “personal and unprofessional.”
Any suggestion that Chris Paul would ever conduct himself in a disrespectful manner towards women is utterly ridiculous, outrageous and patently false.
– Michele Roberts, National Basketball Players Association executive director
“Without hesitation, the Players Association stands firmly behind Chris, whose competitiveness may only be exceeded by the strength of his values and his conviction,” Roberts said in a statement.
On Friday, Paul repeatedly said it was “a bad call” that prompted him to criticize Holtkamp’s officiating Thursday night — nothing more.
“Last night was about a bad call. That’s all,” Paul said prior to the Clippers’ game at the Toronto Raptors. Paul repeated his answer two more times upon being questioned about it before a team official asked reporters to move on to basketball-related questions.
The eight-time All-Star found himself embroiled in controversy after getting upset that he was given a technical foul by Holtkamp in the third quarter of his team’s 105-94 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday. With 10:17 left, he tried to catch an inbounds pass quickly, but instead was T’d up after questioning Holtkamp, who became the third woman to referee NBA games full-time this season.
“I think we have to show better composure, but at the same time some of [the technical fouls] were ridiculous,” Paul said Thursday. “The tech that I get right there was ridiculous. I don’t care what nobody says, I don’t care what she says; that’s terrible. There’s no way that can be a tech. We try to get the ball out fast every time down the court, and when we did that, she said, ‘Uh-uh.’ I said, ‘Why, uh-uh?’ And she gave me a tech.
“That’s ridiculous. If that’s the case, this might not be for her.”
The NBRA deplores the personal and unprofessional comments made by Chris Paul. She belongs.
– NBRA general counsel Lee Seham
Clippers coach Doc Rivers did not like how Paul reacted, but said Friday it was not an issue of gender.
“Well, I didn’t like it,” Rivers said . “I didn’t like that part of it, but I don’t think he meant it in the way I think it’s being said. I just think he was upset at the technical. I don’t think the technical was warranted either, to be honest, but that’s not a gender issue. … I don’t think that he meant it as a gender issue at all.”
Roberts issued the statement Friday afternoon, backing Paul, the president of the NBPA.
“Any suggestion that Chris Paul would ever conduct himself in a disrespectful manner towards women is utterly ridiculous, outrageous and patently false,” Roberts said. “His personal management team, which includes several accomplished women who play a major role in virtually all of his business affairs is, alone, evidence of that fact.
“The Players Association is a strong Exhibit B. Anyone paying attention is aware that Chris and his executive committee colleagues were instrumental in making me the first woman executive director of a major men’s professional sports union. Further, Chris and the committee were nothing but wholly supportive of my recent hire of Chrysa Chin — a woman — as the NBPA’s first ever executive vice president of strategy and development.”
Roberts’ statement came hours after the NBA referees union backed Holtkamp’s calls and criticized Paul’s comments.
“The NBRA has carefully reviewed the calls made by Lauren Holtkamp and deems them fully justified,” NBRA general counsel Lee Seham said in a statement. “Furthermore, the NBRA deplores the personal and unprofessional comments made by Chris Paul. She belongs.”
Sources close to the situation told ESPN.com’s Marc Stein that Paul’s comments are under league review, but one source stressed that the review was triggered per normal protocol, as the comments were critical of officiating.
Before working for the NBA, Holtkamp had six seasons of NBA D-League experience, including work in the 2013 and 2014 D-League Finals. She also has refereed in the WNBA, college and FIBA ranks.
She is one of two current full-time female officials in the NBA, along with Violet Palmer. Dee Kantner is no longer with the league.
Holtkamp wasn’t scheduled to officiate Friday.
Entering Friday, the Clippers led the league with 58 technical fouls — including 11 by Matt Barnes, which is tied for tops in the league.
“It’s bulls—, it keeps happening,” Barnes said after Thursday’s game. “Some of these I earn and some of them I don’t, but it’s crazy to get a technical foul for pulling your arm away and a technical foul for saying, ‘Just don’t give them the game.’ If you can’t play with emotion, I don’t see how you can play.
“I guess it’s a reputation we’ve earned, and it’s upon us to do a better job of trying to control our emotions, but you can’t play the game at this level without emotion and without talking. It’s tough, but the refs had nothing to do with the way we came out and performed tonight.”
Arash Markazi and Marc Stein of ESPN.com and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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