The primary two minutes of the documentary “Untold: Operation Flagrant Foul,” now streaming on Netflix, about former NBA referee Tim Donaghy should give viewers loads of raised eyebrows and cause them to reevaluate their definition of truth.
The daring words come across the screen when the producers ask the NBA for comment on the film: “Tim Donaghy is a convicted felon. … There isn’t any basis now to revisit any of this.”
Then Donaghy, a native Pennsylvanian and 76ers fan, appears on screen and illuminates these words through a voiceover, “I like the sport of basketball. Growing up, it’s all I did, all I dreamt of, and all I desired to be an element of. Man, did I (expletive) my life up.”
Other than the legal facts of the case, the last sentence in that statement is perhaps probably the most honest thing said in the complete documentary.
“Operation Flagrant Foul,” which can also be the name of the federal investigation into Donaghy and the scheme, dives deep into the 2007 gambling scandal that almost brought down the NBA, calling its integrity into query. Accusations, innuendo and lies come from a solid of lawyers and characters, including Donaghy’s co-conspirators Tommy Martino and Jimmy Battista, telling a story that many have way back desired to forget — especially the NBA. (Nobody from the league participated within the film).
Despite the fact that he wrote a book in regards to the ordeal, 2009’s “Personal Foul: A First-Person Account of the Scandal that Rocked the NBA,” Donaghy says a part of the rationale he desired to do a documentary was to resolve what was done, in addition to the NBA’s culpability and “why it got swept under the rug so quickly.”
“And in addition because I feel there are numerous misconceptions on the market,” Donaghy said to USA TODAY Sports.
Certainly one of those misconceptions is that Donaghy officiated the 2002 Western Conference Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Sacramento Kings, where several calls got here into query. (He didn’t, but he did officiate the infamous “Malice within the Palace” brawl between the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons.)
“The entire thing about fixing the games. And there have been numerous things within the U.S. Attorney Office that were form of shady,” Donaghy said. “And clearly that the NBA and David Stern (former NBA commissioner who died in 2020) said that I used to be one rogue referee. Those things usually are not true.”
While the NBA denied leaking the main points of the FBI investigation into fixing games to the media with a purpose to get an early handle on some damage control later, Donaghy warns fans, even today, to have a skeptical mind when watching a league telecast.
“I used to be within the inner workings of it for 14 years and I saw what we going to do and the way star players were treated, and it was different depending what was on the back and front of jerseys,” said Donaghy, who also claimed the league wanted to increase playoff series in consequence.
“And the foundations weren’t enforced as they were written within the rulebook. I saw it then, and I still see it now.”
The FBI’s conclusion was that Donaghy didn’t manipulate games or make calls to learn his gambling picks, with the NBA issuing its own report detailing misconduct and located there was “no basis to disagree with the finding of the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office that ‘[t]here isn’t any evidence that Donaghy ever intentionally made a selected ruling during a game with a purpose to increase the likelihood that his gambling pick can be correct.'”
In 2008 Donaghy pleaded guilty to 2 charges, conspiracy to have interaction in wire fraud and transmitting betting information through interstate commerce for essentially giving insider tricks to his friends in games he worked. He lost his livelihood, wife and pension, and was sentenced to a 15-month prison term and three years of supervised release.
The FBI also checked out several other league officials, including Scott Foster, to see if it was a widespread problem, but that investigation was halted.
Now 55 and living in Florida, Donaghy, a divorced father of 4, says he still gets recognized when he’s out but is in a very good place today. For income, he has appeared in Major League Wrestling portraying a crooked referee, and he also manages several rental properties.
“I affected numerous people, but for that there isn’t loads that I can do except move forward and make higher decisions,” he said.
A bit remorseful and positively defiant about his thoughts on the NBA and Battista, when asked how can a viewer watching the documentary can tell when someone is being truthful, the reply is repeated at every opportunity: He and the FBI are telling the reality, everyone else, not a lot.
“I feel Tommy and I are similar in our stories that we told. Anytime Battista opens his mouth to speak, you possibly can just know that he’s lying,” Donaghy says bluntly.