The best, most popular basketball league on
the planet was reduced to begging in court for a handout from a lowlife
gambler earlier this year, and, with a big assist from the federal
government, got its payoff yesterday. Or at least the promise of being
entitled to a payoff.
No, money's not that tight for the NBA.
There is no cash shortage, and there will probably be plenty of
$15-million contracts to go around for some time to come. But the
league did go to court to argue that it was a "victim" in the Tim
Donaghy betting scandal, and that it was entitled to restitution from
the defendants, which it was awarded yesterday. Donaghy, you'll recall, was a longtime NBA ref who began betting on
games a few years back. His last scheme involved several participants
who received information from Donaghy, placed bets, and slipped him
payments from the winnings. One of those participants, James Battista,
eventually pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge, but appealed the
portion of his sentence that held him jointly responsible with his
co-conspirators for a little over $200,000 in restitution payments to
Yesterday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second
Circuit rejected that appeal, reasoning that "the NBA was 'directly and
proximately harmed' by Battista committing the crime of conspiracy to
transmit wagering information." Despite not being a direct victim of
the fraud, the court said, the league was entitled to be repaid for a
host of expenses:
a portion of Donaghy's salary, corresponding to the games he was reffing and betting on;
investigative costs incurred when the scandal required the NBA to review game tapes going back several years;
and attorneys' fees incurred pursuing the appeal.
noted above, the United States actually argued for the restitution
award on the NBA's behalf; it is of course commonplace for the
government to make such arguments on behalf of crime victims, although
most crime victims don't have the NBA's billions. But, assuming that
Battista & Co. ever earn enough to pay back that whopping $200K,
the league will have a little pocket change it can fall back on. Like,
say, if the Celtics need a little help meeting payroll: $200,000 would take care of Kevin Garnett for 3 days.