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Was Chris Paul Out Of Line With Comments About The Female Referee?

Last night at the Quicken Loans Arena in downtown Cleveland, the Cavaliers continued their winning streak with a 105-94 thrashing of the Los Angeles Clippers.

The final score was deceiving, as the Cavs led by 31 after three quarters. Doc Rivers was very disappointed in his team’s effort on national television, despite facing a Cavs team who claimed their 12th consecutive victory.

LeBron James and Kevin Love seemed to finally have their games on the same page, combining for 47 points before watching the final quarter from the bench. They were recovering for a Friday night tilt against divisional rival Indiana.

But, an excellent effort by the Cavs and their turnaround is not the headline here. Instead, people are buzzing about the comments made by Clippers guard Chris Paul following the game.

During the game, his team was issued five technical fouls and Matt Barnes was ejected with just four points in 24 minutes. While his coach decried the effort, Paul pointed blame at rookie referee, Lauren Holtkamp, for a poorly officiated game.

His comments have spawned some controversy, but were they justified?

The voice of the players

Most of us know Chris Paul as the famous pitchman for State Farm with his “twin brother” Cliff. The star guard didn’t sound “like a good neighbor” in passing out comments for Holtkamp and the officials last night.

He was assessed a technical last night for an exchange on attempting to inbound quickly to rev up the Lob City offense.

While national media regarded the game as poorly officiated, Paul had a few choice words for the rookie official:

I think we have to show better composure, but at the same time some of [the technical fouls] were ridiculous. 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.

Chris Paul is a well-respected veteran and has been a star in the NBA since joining New Orleans as a fourth overall draft pick in 2005 after his stellar career at Georgia Tech.

He’s also the head of the NBPA, the player’s union, since August 2013, after serving four years on the executive committee.

In the past 12 months, he spearheaded the efforts to ban his owner, Donald Sterling, following his incendiary racist comments, along with bringing in Executive Director Michele Roberts, the first female to lead a players’ union in major league American sports.

If anyone deserves some leniency and more considerate treatment by a novice referee, it would be CP3.

A rough night for the Clips

The first technical in the evening went to Doc Rivers, the Clippers' coach who tried to electrify his team with a first-quarter exhortation.

He later claimed he should’ve earned another to get away from that atrocity. Matt Barnes earned one first for a rough grab on Kevin Love and his second for criticizing a foul against teammate Jamal Crawford against LeBron.

Even DeAndre Jordan got T’d up after breaking the Third Commandment following an emphatic dunk. Apparently that was a mix-up, and after speaking to the other referees, he hopes the foul will be rescinded.

Paul should expect a fine for his disparaging comments of the refereeing. He might not be the only one from the Clippers getting a letter from the league office. This might be a group trip to the appeal board for the multiple fined individuals. Perhaps having the president of the players’ association on their side can help their case.

In a game where there were no fights or physical fracas, five technicals is unusually high, even for a team who has a reputation for complaining and histrionics.

Perhaps we should be calling them “Sob City.”

Does Holtkamp belong?

Holtkamp’s evening wasn’t unusual for someone new to a position of authority. Ask anyone who starts as a corrections or law enforcement officer: His or her mindset is to establish authority out the gate.

Holtkamp has refereed at the collegiate and international level, along with six years in the NBA’s Developmental League. She has officiated the last two league finals.

From the coverage and fans who watched the game, the whole crew had a tough night. Paul’s comments stemmed from his frustration on his technical from a simple exchange. He certainly had the right to request the ball, and Holtkamp’s refusal delayed the pace of the game, notably halting the exciting Clips’ offense against a very strong Cavs defense.

To the players, paying fans and even the networks who just gave the NBA a massive contract for television rights (proceeds of which go toward paying referee salaries), that’s not fair and hurts the game.

Her future in the league will hinge on how she responds to this controversy. If she has another difficult game, the criticism will be amplified.

However, I feel she has a place in this game and the NBA’s initiative to employ female referees is so important to gender equality in this country and in sports.

She and Violet Palmer are the only two women with full-time jobs officiating NBA games. She deserves a chance to succeed, but she also deserves a chance to respond to criticism.

Paul’s comments weren’t misogynistic, but it was a case of the leader of the players’ union standing up to an adjudicator of the game.

If you want to be on the big stage with the big boys, you better be able to stand the heat from those bright lights. If Holtkamp can prove she deserves to be there, she should have no problem shutting up the critics.