Raptors’ Fred VanVleet rips NBA officiating in profanity-laced screed


The Toronto Raptors’ ongoing frustration with NBA officiating came to a head Wednesday when guard Fred VanVleet unleashed a profanity-laced rant following a 108-100 road loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.

VanVleet, who was assessed a technical foul midway through the third quarter, pulled no punches during his postgame news conference. The 2022 all-star rattled off a litany of concerns, harshly criticizing the performance of one referee by name, arguing that the official was making it “personal” by targeting VanVleet with technical fouls and accusing NBA officials of being on a “power trip” and interfering with the game experience.

“Most of the refs are trying hard,” VanVleet said. “I like a lot of the refs. They’re trying hard. They’re pretty fair. They communicate well. Then you’ve got the other ones, who just want to be d—s. It just kind of f—s the game up. Nobody is coming to see that s—. They’re coming to see the players. I think we’re losing a little bit of the fabric of what the NBA is and was. It’s been disappointing this season.”

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The Raptors (32-35) are in a tight race for a spot in the Eastern Conference’s play-in tournament, and they suffered a 118-113 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Monday. With less than 30 seconds remaining and Denver leading by one point, Toronto forward Scottie Barnes was ejected by referee Scott Foster. Barnes hadn’t been issued a technical foul previously and the Raptors were stunned by the quick ejection, which wasn’t triggered by an obvious confrontation between player and official.

Afterward, Raptors Coach Nick Nurse said there was “absolutely nothing” that warranted an ejection. Foster told a pool reporter that Barnes had been ejected for using “verbiage that which directly questioned the integrity of the crew.”

That exchange was still on VanVleet’s mind two days later.

“Ben Taylor was f—ing terrible tonight,” VanVleet said. “On most nights, out of the three [referees], there’s one or two that just f— the game up. It’s been like that a couple games in a row. Denver was tough, obviously. You come out tonight, competing pretty hard, and in the third quarter I get a b—s— tech. That changes the whole dynamic of the game, changes the whole flow of the game.”

According to VanVleet, he received his technical foul on Wednesday because he was instructing his teammates not to get too wrapped up in disputing calls.

“If I say to my team, ‘Come on guys, let’s keep playing through the b—s—’ and that warrants a tech, I think that’s a little bit crazy,” VanVleet said. “What are we doing? There’s a fine line, obviously, I understand that, but I think the jurisdiction and the power trip that we’ve been on this year with some of our officials in this league is getting out of hand. I’ll take my fine for speaking on it. It’s f—ing ridiculous.”

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The seven-year pro added that many of his eight technical fouls this season had been assessed by Taylor, adding that “at a certain point as a player, you feel that it’s personal.” Taylor is in his 10th season as an official.

VanVleet, 29, finished with 13 points on 4-for-12 shooting, four rebounds and nine assists in 39 minutes against the Clippers.

Los Angeles attempted 31 free throws to Toronto’s 14, a “huge disparity” that “was the difference tonight,” according to VanVleet, whose wide-reaching criticisms and repeated use of profanities are sure to draw discipline from the league office.

In January, the NBA’s officials came under fire for missing what could have been a game-deciding foul on Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, who slapped the arm of Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James on a potential game-winning layup in the final seconds of regulation. Boston went on to win 125-121 in overtime. Anthony Davis said afterward that the Lakers had been “cheated” and that referees should be “fined for missed calls.”

The National Basketball Referees Association responded with a statement the next day accepting responsibility for the “gut-wrenching” error, which the organization said would “weigh heavily and cause sleepless nights as we strive to be the best referees we can be.”

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told ESPN last month that referees are given playoff assignments based on “the accuracy of their calls and their demeanor on the floor,” though the league chooses not to make public its disciplinary measures with regard to the officials.

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