Lauren Holtkamp and Chris Paul

When I saw that Chris Paul was critical of NBA official Lauren Holtkamp–and saw that it was on the front page of the website–I thought he must have gone off on her Cornbread Maxwell style. Then I read his comments, which were garden-variety complaining, as ESPN reports it:

“Some of [the technical fouls] were ridiculous,” Paul said. “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.”

A little harsh, yes.  But I don’t see a gender-based attack.  He could have said the same thing about either of the other two first-year NBA officials, Dedric Taylor or Justin VanDuyne, and the only words that would have changed would have been the pronouns.  Is it possible that Paul was more bothered because he was T’d up by a woman?  Maybe, but it’s not proveable, and I would like to give Paul (or anyone) the benefit of the doubt before calling him a sexist (or a racist), since I would like the same benefit of the doubt given to myself.

So everything went according to a threadbare script.  The referees union backed up Holtkamp, saying she belongs.  The players union backed up Paul, citing his personal and professional life as proof he didn’t have it in for Holtkamp because of her gender.  The NBA investigated, found no gender-based backing for his complaints and fined him $25,000 (which Paul can likely find beneath his couch cushions) for criticizing officials.

So that’s that. Garden variety posturing. Paul makes his point (and doesn’t look good doing it, especially considering the stats on the Clippers, Holtkamp, and T’s). Holtkamp learns her fellow officials have her back.  It’s happened before, and it will happen again.

The only group that comes off looking bad is the media.  There is NO WAY this makes the front page of ESPN if the official in question were Taylor or VanDuyne.  The net result is that Holtkamp gets more attention because of her gender. And based on everything I’ve read about her (and it’s unrelentingly positive), she wouldn’t like that. Right this minute, the headline on ESPN says “CP3 fined $25K for criticizing female referee.” And that makes me feel for Holtkamp, who takes pride in her game taking her this far, as a USA Today profile shows:

Holtkamp is emphatic that she is a referee who happens to be a woman.

“I would say really from day one when I got hired into the D-League I’ve been treated as a referee as far as my performance,” she said. “It’s been about my performance and the quality of work.”

She would undoubtedly loathe the extra, unneeded word, “female,” in that ESPN headline. Seriously, if they have to save space by printing “CP3” instead of “Paul,” why not lose the whole word “female”?  (It’s worth noting that the NBA.com story I link to above does not use the word “female”.)

So an eye-roll at ESPN, and an eye-roll back at myself:  I’ve made it certain they’ll repeat their mistakes by giving those articles a few more clicks.

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About Paul Hamann
I am a basketball referee in Washington State, working mostly high school games.

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