Court Club Elite, which provided hundreds of referees for Adidas’ annual Summer Championships for a decade, has cut ties with the apparel giant, this after butting heads over LaVar Ball’s apparent dislike for female officials.
The decision was made following an AAU tournament in Las Vegas.
“Frankly, we didn’t even know (Ball) was going to be in the tournament until a couple days before, and Adidas reached out to us and just said, ‘We’re going to ask that you put some of your stronger people in the game,’” former NBA Director of Officiating and Club Court Elite founder Ed Rush said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “That was the only communication we had, and that’s reasonable, thinking there’s going to be a little more emotion involved in those settings.”
On Friday, however, Ball threatened to forfeit a game if a female referee who had given him a technical foul was not removed. Eventually, she was – and replaced by a male.
“Approximately 40 percent of our members worldwide work the women’s game, and approximately 25 percent of our members are women,” Rush said. “Again, it’s about productivity, and frankly, after the incident, we came back and said, ‘Let’s do something we haven’t done before just to make sure we’re servicing these games in the right way.’ We asked three of our staff members, who are Division I referees – two of which worked postseason – if they would be willing to work the next game. They said, ‘We’re willing to do that.’”
Those three Division I referees were female.
“That was met by the Adidas folks in a very emotional and a very negative fashion,” Rush said. “I looked at them and said, ‘What do you want to do here? You asked me to put the best people out here.’”
Rush said Adidas insisted that only one referee, at most, be female.
“I said, ‘Really? Is that what we’re about? How do I address the women in officiating who are trying to advance? That they know they have limited spots when they are working for you?’” Rush said. “(They said), ‘I’m not sure how you address that.’”
Rush said his perception of Adidas is “radically different” than it was just a few weeks ago.
“This is all about them romancing the Ball family for obvious reasons,” Rush said. “So being that he had singled out in a very unprofessional manner a female official who is highly competent, one of the better officials that we’ve had, the fact that he singled her out and then put up the red flag to the Adidas folks, of course I think that changed the dynamic. We knew that we were going to walk out of there, and that was going to be it. In a perfect world, I would have taken our entire crew off the game when he insisted on changing the official. I second-guessed myself for that decision, but I did this because I knew we had 110 people who wanted to work two-and-a-half days’ worth of games and continue the educational experience. I didn’t want to jeopardize that.”
Adidas had never before criticized Court Club Elite’s referee assignments.
“We always have done the assignments,” Rush said. “Nobody has ever intervened on assignments in all the years we’ve done stuff with them. All they’ve said to us was occasionally they will remind us there’s a certain game that might be a little more high-profile, but they won’t tell us who to use. They don’t know who we have, so they couldn’t tell us who to use anyway. This is the first time that they’ve actually inserted themselves into the assignment process.”