Los Angeles Clippers superstar Chris Paul is coming under fire Friday for a remark he made in the previous night’s game, which some are interpreting as a sexist jab at a female NBA referee. Following the Clippers second straight loss, a 105-94 pasting by the Lebron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers in Cleveland, Paul criticized Lauren Holtkamp for a technical foul she assessed against him in the game’s third quarter.
Holtkamp, 34, is in her first year as an NBA ref, and is only the third female on-court official in NBA history — in fact, no other major U.S. pro sports league has ever employed a female in-game official, putting the NBA three ahead of everyone else.
With 10:17 remaining in the third quarter, there was brief verbal exchange between Holtkamp and Paul as the all star Los Angeles guard attempted to inbound the ball after a Cavaliers field goal. Somehow, the brief conversation resulted in the 29-year-old, 10-year veteran Paul getting hit with a technical foul by Holtkamp.
The “T” was one of five accumulated by the Clippers in the contest Thursday.
After the game, Paul remarked on the technical foul call, calling it “terrible.”
“The tech that I got right there was ridiculous. I don’t care what nobody says, I don’t care what she says; that’s terrible,” Paul told a reporter. “There’s no way that can be a tech.”
Paul then explained what happened in the exchange, as he interpreted it. But it was the final sentence of his quote that has ignited the controversy.
“We try to get the ball out fast every time down the court, and when we did that, she said, ‘Uh-uh.’ And 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.”
Yes, Lauren Holtkamp is a rookie NBA ref, but Chris Paul has to know it’s a bad look to question her qualifications over one foul. Come on. — Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) February 6, 2015
NBA Refs Association responds fiercely to Chris Paul on official Lauren Holtkamp. Her calls, “justified,” and,”She belongs,” Lee Seham says.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) February 6, 2015
Deadspin writer Kevin Draper also called it “a bad look” for Paul to single out the female ref, even allowing for the possibility that his reference was to her relative lack of NBA experience rather than her gender.
While Holtkamp was reffing only her 29th NBA game, she rose through the officiating ranks by paying the same dues as her male counterparts, spending six seasons officiating on the grueling, low-paying D-League circuit, the NBA’s minor league.
In fact, Washington Post writer Neil Greenberg pointed out, Holtkamp calls relatively few technical fouls, ranking 21st out of 39 NBA refs who have worked at least 20 games this season.
The Clippers, on the other hand, lead the NBA in technical fouls, averaging almost one per game — 0.8 to be exact — but 1.3 per game in their last three.
“The problem appears to be with the Clippers getting technicals, not with how Holtkamp calls them,” Greenberg wrote.
The Los Angeles Clippers, for that matter, have led the NBA in technical fouls for two of the previous three seasons, and tied for second in the third. So far, the NBA has given no word on whether it will discipline Chris Paul for his comments.