Considering the public relations nightmare the NBA is having currently, the other sports are checking themselves closely and their referees/officials/umpires in particular. They do not want to deal with the same situation the NBA is currently dealing with. None of the three major sports have escaped recent controversy over the past few years. Major league baseball is still dealing with the steroids cloud hanging over it’s head as Barry Bonds is about to set the major league record for homeruns. Football is dealing with Michael Vick’s alleged dog fighting involvement. Neither of these leagues at this point want any part of the issue basketball is facing though with at least one referee involved in gambling on the sport.
The NFL has never had to deal with that type of scandal. Baseball has, or at least baseball allegedly has when a manager was involved, or at least Pete Rose was kicked out of the game due to the case against him. To avoid having this spread into the men behind the plate and bases charged with enforcing the rules, major league baseball wants to look into the background of their umpires. The umpires though are not quite willing to go along with this voluntarily without getting something in exchange. The World Umpires Association released a press release indicating that umpires are willing to go along with background checks to a degree, but they want a fair exchange of ideas with upper management of major league baseball before it occurs.
The press release indicates umpires are not willing to have their rights to privacy invaded at will by the sport and want to know what the background investigations will involve. The investigations according to the press release will examine every major league and minor league umpire that is in the league currently and their background since their date of hire. For some umpires this means that the league will be looking through thirty years of their lives as there are some umpires who have been working in the sport for a period of that many years.
All 70 of Major League Baseball’s full time umpires are represented by the World Umpires Association according to the press release. While the organization indicates they understand Major League Baseball’s concern about the sanctity of the sport and making sure the rules are adhered to as the playoffs and World Series approach in the next couple months, they will not follow any demands from the sport that are not contractually agreed upon, until the issue is discussed further among the two groups.
Major league baseball has had the media divided among the recent sports controversies, slightly reducing the amount of coverage they might have received through the media and sports talk shows about their steroids controvery as Barry Bonds is ready to break the all time homerun record. The sport probably realizes that there is not much they can do to avoid the type of controversy that football is experiencing with Michael Vick. At the same time though, they do realize that they can be proactive and try to avoid being in the same situation that the NBA is dealing with right now. The steroid controversy has caused some to question the integrity of Major League Baseball, but the sport has survived the scrutiny so far. League officials clearly don’t want to find out if they would be able to handle the same type of scrutiny the NBA is currently facing.
Prnewswire.com. “Umpires Suspend Cooperation With MLB Over Background Investigations”.