There was a bizarre incident at the Cal-Stanford women's semi-final game on Saturday involving one of the referees. As you all know, Alexis Gray-Lawson suffered a very frightening injury, that was eerily reminiscent of Jahvid Best's injury against Oregon State. After hard, but entirely clean, contact with three Stanford players, she fell backward onto the floor and hit her head. The TV announcers said that her head hit so hard that they could clearly hear the sound of it from where they were sitting. As Lexi lay on the floor, the refs allowed the game to continue until the next stoppage of play.
Once play was finally stopped, there was dead silence in the Galen Center as Lexi was tended to, her mother and Coach Boyle at her side. After about 15 minutes, her head and neck were immobilized, and she was taken off the floor on a stretcher. During the frightening silence, a fan yelled out from the stands that the refs were "stupid," apparently referring to the refs allowing play to continue while Lexi lay on the floor with what could have been a very serious injury. (Thankfully, she seems to be doing very well.) That's all there was: one single, non-profane insult, yelled out by a single fan in a moment of extreme stress. None of this showed up on the TV broadcast, so I will quote the description of what happened next from C and R's Stanford Women's Basketball Blog (who kindly gave me permission to quote their description):
There was a very scary moment right before the 5 minute mark in the second half. Stanford was up 56-32. Michelle Harrison blocked Cal’s Alexis Gray Lawson and she hit the deck. Stanford grabbed the rebound and hustled down the court while Alexis lay motionless on the floor. Play kept continuing and the refs did not stop play for the injured player.
Now, it is unclear to C and R of the refs have discretion to stop play whenever a player goes down or if they have to wait for a dead ball to check on the injured player. Or if they just didn’t know she was laying back there in the back court. So the game continued on for 12 seconds until there was a break in the action and the refs finally called an official time out to check on Alexis.
Sooo, from the fans point of view, the refs were either heartless or clueless.
Soooo, as the medical crew was checking on Alexis and both teams were huddled by their benches and it was very, very quiet in the building, a female fan (not us) yelled, "You refs are stupid!" That’s it, one sentence, no curse words, no badgering. Unfortunately, the lady ref we don’t like heard her and said, "I heard you call me stupid."
Sooooooo, the ref, let’s call her Melissa, called over security and wanted the fan thrown out. Two big guys went to the section and were unsure what to do, who was it, was it that bad, was it this little old lady, so they just told the section to be quiet. The ref kept wanting someone thrown out and the staff didn’t want to throw anybody out. The fan seemed pretty pacified by this point. (BTW, if you know who that fan is, please email us so we can buy her an adult beverage!)
C and R added in an email to me that there was absolutely no profanity or vulgarity by the fan, and that the security people seemed quite embarrassed at being told to eject the fan, whom they couldn't identify anyway. They ended up just telling the people in the section "Y'all be quiet!"
I find it absolutely incredible that a referee would go off on a personal ego trip like this while a player was laying on the floor with what could have been a very severe injury. And since when is yelling that the refs are "stupid" a reason to eject a fan? If that is the standard for ejection, I should probably have been kicked out of every sporting event I have ever attended. Certainly, if a fan gets in a ref's face or engages in loud and prolonged taunting of the ref, there may be reason to eject him or her. But this was just ridiculous. If a ref can't tolerate having someone yell from the stands that she is stupid, then she needs to find another line of work.
All this has left me with several questions. What are the rules about stopping the game for injury? Do the refs have the power to stop the game immediately in the case of what appears to be a very serious injury? I recall the men's game earlier this year continuing for some time when Jorge was injured, but he wasn't laying motionless on the floor. If the refs don't have the power to stop the game in the event of a serious injury, shouldn't they be given that power? My next question is what power the refs have to eject fans. Is it completely unlimited? Does this mean I can never call a referee "stupid" again without fear of being ejected? And finally -- will the Pac-10 ever do anything about its horrible refs?