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In the N.B.A., ‘Flagrant’ Is a Matter of Interpretation

A nagging question is dominating the N.B.A. playoffs, and it has nothing to do with who will win the championship. The question: When is a flagrant foul not a flagrant foul? The answer: When it is changed the next day.
A nagging question is dominating the N.B.A. playoffs, and it has nothing to do with who will win the championship. The question: When is a flagrant foul not a flagrant foul? The answer: When it is changed the next day. Referees have called 16 flagrant fouls this spring. Seven were later downgraded by the commissioner’s office. Seven other flagrant fouls have been issued retroactively — long after the final buzzers sounded and the arenas emptied out. Technical fouls, too, have been subject to revision, sometimes disappearing after the fact, by edict of Stu Jackson, the N.B.A.’s executive vice president of basketball operations. The stated goal is to get the calls right, but that high-minded policy has been met with frustration and confusion. Players are not sure what constitutes a flagrant foul. Coaches go to sleep wondering if their player might be suspended the next day, even if no infraction was called during the game. When everything is reviewable, no call seems final.
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