June 15, 2012
(Editor's Note: Philadelphia area sports writer Ben Horrow contributes weekly to Authentically Speaking.)
By Ben Horrow
Throughout the 2012 NBA playoffs, the officials have been under much scrutiny. Pundits, players, coaches, and even the commissioner have spoken about the referees and their officiating.
One unspoken issue involving NBA referees concerns their wardrobe. In cooperation with the NBA, during the 2012 NBA Finals between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat, the officials will wear the number 57 on their uniforms to show solidarity for their fellow referee Greg Willard who is currently battling pancreatic cancer. Willard, a seasoned official has been an NBA referee for 24 seasons and has officiated more than 1,600 regular season and playoff games.
Although teams often wear patches commemorating events or people who have recently passed away or remain ill, officials do not often wear patches or numbers on their jerseys in solidarity of their own. On the other hand, there is precedent for the patch being worn by NBA officials in the finals.
During the 1989-1990 season, NHL referees wore “J.McC.” on their sweaters to memorialize John McCauley, the recently deceased director of NHL officiating. In addition, in the 2005-2006 season, NHL officials wore the number 72 on their sweaters commemorating the life of Stephane Provost, a linesman who died in a fatal motorcycle accident in May 2005.