David Stern was on Jim Rome's radio show Wednesday and things got very tense, very quickly once the subject of the NBA Draft lottery came up. Stern became defensive when Rome asked him if the lottery was rigged.
Stern, who has been asked numerous times in the past month about whether the lottery is rigged after the recently-sold-from-the-league Hornets won the lottery and the rights to Anthony Davis with the No. 1 pick. On Wednesday, Rome asked him that same question, and after some discussion of the validity of the question, the Commissioner responded with what seemed like a very personal attack:
Have you stopped beating your wife yet?Rome has absolutely no history on that front, so if you're wondering where Stern came up with that from, Cleveland blog Waiting For Next Year has the answer:
What the commissioner was trying to say was that it was unfair to ask such a loaded question. In this case, the commissioner obviously felt the question had an unjustified assumption of guilt built right into it.Stern's used this tactic in the past frequently, it's a way of responding that the question is frame badly. But the question, "Was the fix in for the lottery" doesn't seem to indicate it. So even though it's a mental trap rather than an accusation, it still didn't come across well.
The “beat your wife” thing is a standard example of the definition of a loaded question. From Wikipedia,
The traditional example is the question “Have you stopped beating your wife?” Whether the respondent answers yes or no, he will admit to having a wife, and having beaten her at some time in the past. Thus, these facts are presupposed by the question, and in this case an entrapment, because it narrows the respondent to a single answer, and the fallacy of many questions has been committed.
The bigger issue here is Stern's continued reticence and animosity towards a question a lot of people ask. The league doesn't have a problem of the lottery being rigged. It does have a problem with the perception that it's rigged because it is constantly a topic of conversation, even among NBA personnel.
From the interview:
Rome: "...was the fix in for the lottery?"
Stern: "No, and a statement: shame on you for asking."
Rome: "I understand why you would say that to me. I think it's my job to ask because I think people wonder."
Stern: "No, it's ridiculous. But that's OK."
Rome: "I know you think it's ridiculous, but I don't think the question's ridiculous, because I know people who think that. I'm not saying that I do, but I think it's my job to ask you that."
Stern: "Have you stopped beating your wife yet?"
Rome: "I don't know if that's fair.
Stern: "Why is that?"
Rome: "Because I know you read your emails and you probably follow on Twitter, and people really do think it, whether it's fair or not. You don't think it's fair to ask if your fans think it?"
The Commissioner then answered with a hypothetical question about it from media and how the NBA has representatives from every team involved in attendance to assure that no funny business goes on.
Rome: "I don't think [it's rigged], but the one thing I would say is that the league does own the team. Does that not make the question fair?"
Stern: "I don't think so, we've sold it. We're going to close the deal this week. We set our price. I think if it had gone to Michael Jordan people would say 'Oh, David's taking care of his friend Michael,' and if it had gone to Brooklyn which is going into Barclay Center, it would be fair to speculate that we want to take Brooklyn off of the mat, so there was no winning. And people write about it, and it's OK to write about it, and we sort of expect it. But that's not a question that I've been asked before by a respectable journalist. "
Funny story, CBS Sports' Ian Eagle asked Stern about the lottery being rigged just this week. But Stern continued assaulting the question, then bringing up Rome's motives for the question.
Stern: "It's good copy and sometimes you do things for cheap thrills."
Rome: "No, not at all. That's my point, that's our point of disconnect. That was not for a cheap thrill and I wasn't throwing anything against the wall, and I was trying to be as respectful as possible. I'm just saying that people wonder about that. I don't want to say "Hey, Commissioner, people would say.." because I'm going to ask a direct question, but people wonder. But that was not a cheap thrill."
Stern: "It was a cheap trick."
Rome: "Flopping is a cheap trick."
The interview kind of broke down from there with Rome running out of time.
This is not going away. At some point the PR hit the league takes for the lottery may outweigh its value in maintaining competitive balance. One thing is certain, if Stern wanted the issue to go away, he's done the exact opposite with his responses to it.