Buzzer-beater: a weekly column by The Spectrum sports desk
The role of women in basketball
On Feb. 5, Los Angeles Clippers' point guard Chris Paul had one of his worst games on the court this season, finishing the game with 10 points and nine assists.
Not many people cared about his subpar game on the court the next day. They cared about his subpar antics off the court.
Paul was scrutinized for his comments about rookie referee Lauren Holtkamp. Holtkamp is one of two women referee’s in the NBA today. Earlier in the game, Holtkamp awarded Paul with a technical foul after arguing a questionable call.
“The [technical foul] that I got right there was ridiculous,” Paul said later that night at a press conference. “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. … That’s ridiculous. If that’s the case, this might not be for her.”
Paul’s last comment sparked controversy about the role of women in basketball and is still an ongoing debate. Paul was fined $25,000 for his antics, but quickly covered up his comment by saying it was solely about a bad call.
The Spectrum sports desk reflected on the recent controversy.
It’s not surprising that Paul got into a fight with a referee. But it’s surprising with what he followed up with.
Paul has been one of the most consistent players on and off the court over his illustrious 10-year career. He is a spokesperson for the community while successfully leading one of the premiere teams in the NBA for years.
Part of his 10-year career also includes 79 technical fouls. It’s not shocking that he got into a fight with a referee last Thursday. He’s a competitor. It’s easy to get lost in the moment. The gender of the referee wouldn’t have mattered. Man or woman, Paul would have had the same response.
But Paul made it about gender when, in reality, it didn’t have to be. By saying that basketball wasn’t for Holtkamp, Paul questioned the role of women in the NBA.
In recent years, the league has reached new heights on the inclusion of women. There are currently two women referees and a female assistant coach - Becky Hammon of the San Antonio Spurs – in the league.
And there will be more. The league is just scratching the surface with the addition of women in the NBA and will continue to expand as the years proceed.
The league did the right thing by punishing Paul, even though he recanted his statement. If the NBA wants to add women into the mix, they have to keep on top of players when criticizing women in new roles. If the league does not, the future of women in the NBA will be in question.
The skirmish between Chris Paul and referee Lauren Holtkamp last week was one of the most disappointing moments in the NBA this season.
It was a terrible look for Paul, who normally doesn’t make comments like this. However, it was more of an issue for me because it made the NBA, the sport that seems the most progressive involving women in their sport, look bad.
The role of women in the NBA is an evolving one. On the floor, there’s Holtkamp, along with Violet Palmer, the first female referee in NBA history, manning and controlling the game on most nights.
If you watch a San Antonio Spurs game, you can see Becky Hammon on the sidelines. Hammon is the first full-time female assistant coach in league history. Hammon joined the Spurs this past offseason after a sixteen-year career in the WNBA.
This past week, Grantland profiled Irina Pavlova. Pavlova is the president and member on the Board of Directors for the Brooklyn Nets and , one of the highest ranking women in not only the NBA, but in all of sports.
To ask what a women’s “role” is in the league is TBA. The women in the league now are currently writing the book on how to properly succeed in the league dominated by males – whether they call the game, coach the game, or even, help manage the team.
I believe women have a role in the NBA, and as the league continues to grow and expand, more women will continue to enter the game in various positions throughout the league.
Holtkamp is one of only two female referees in the NBA, and it comes as no surprise to me that the league is doing all it can to make itself the league seem more accessible to women.
The league also has a female presence in the realm of coaching, most notably from Becky Hammon, who ended a stellar WNBA career and became an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs in 2014. Seeing women in high-level positions in a male-dominated organization speaks well on how major sports leagues including the NBA are progressing.
I believe that Paul’s comments have very little to do with the fact that Holtkamp is a woman.
Referees will always get criticism from players regarding poor officiating. This situation is no different. If Holtkamp was having a good game and only made one small misstep, then I would be more understanding of the firestorm surrounding Paul. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case.
A large portion of the game contained strange calls, most notably the two technical fouls given to Paul and Clippers center DeAndre Jordan.
At the end of the day, what makes or breaks a career is whether or not you can do your job well. Jackie Robinson wasn’t the first African-American player in the major leagues simply because he was black; he also did his job exceptionally well. I feel like a lot of people seem to be missing this point.
As for right now, that can’t really be said for Holtkamp. She should just take the comments in stride and use it as motivation to do a better job in the future.