COVID has created an NBA referee problem

Not just a shortage, also feeling unsafe around unmasked officials.

BY TOM HABERSTROH

“This has got the feel of a playoff game tonight!” ESPN announcer Mark Jones exclaimed as referee Scott Foster lofted the ball between Brook Lopez and Dwight Howard at center court. Two heavyweights of the East, the Bucks and 76ers, were headed for overtime. 

Hanging in the balance on March 17 was more than just a game. Some of the items at stake: a key edge on the No. 1 seed race, home-court advantage in a potential playoff matchup, and playoff tiebreakers.

With 3:15 left in overtime, Bucks guard Donte DiVincenzo barreled into Sixers star Ben Simmons. Referee Jason Goldenberg whistled a foul. As he reported it to the scorer’s table, his referee colleague Foster could be seen on the broadcast walking under the basket to fetch the ball. 

Foster was never seen again.

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