Ex-NBA Ref Snared in Gambling Scandal Acts as Crooked Wrestling Official 

Posted on: January 28, 2021, 04:53h. 

Last updated on: January 28, 2021, 05:15h.

Former NBA referee Tim Donaghy is back in a striped shirt, playing a crooked official in the wresting ring. Donaghy once served prison time in a basketball gambling scandal. 

Tim Donaghy
Tim Donaghy, left, and Kobe Bryant talk during a Los Angeles Lakers game. Donaghy took on a role this week as a crooked wresting ref. Bryant died last year in a helicopter crash. (Image: New York Magazine)

Donaghy was in the ring this week as a corrupt referee in the Major League Wrestling show Fusion. During the match, Donaghy helped wrestler Richard Holliday defeat fan favorite Savio Vega for the Caribbean heavyweight championship.

Everything was on the up and up,” Donaghy asserts in a staged interview after the bout, called a strap match.

An angry Vega says, “You cheated on me,” and follows Donaghy off-camera as if seeking a confrontation.

The 54-year-old Donaghy later said he thought fans would find the show entertaining. He added that he was “a little out of my comfort zone” but believed it went well, according to Sports Illustrated.

Wrestling is a form of entertainment, and Im having fun with it,” Donaghy said. It got a little more physical than I expected, but it was definitely exciting. Everyone was very helpful and professional, and I hope Im part of it again.”

‘Mafia Heavyweights’

A native of the Philadelphia area, Donaghy officiated in the National Basketball Association from 1994 until he resigned in 2007. 

After his resignation, he pleaded guilt to charges of conspiracy to engage in wire fraud and transmitting betting information through interstate commerce, according to ESPN.

Donaghy cooperated with prosecutors in the case and received a 15-month prison sentence.

In a book published in 2009, Donaghy writes, During this dark period, I associated with sleazy bookies and reputed Mob figures, slowly becoming someone my family and friends no longer recognized.”

He added that he “passed inside information to wise guys who were making millions of dollars on my picks and lining the pockets of Mafia heavyweights.”

The book is titled Personal Foul: A First-Person Account of the Scandal That Rocked the NBA. In 2013, Donaghy spoke at The Mob Museum in Las Vegas.

Pete Rose’s Betting Advice

Donaghy appears in a recent podcast series titled Whistleblower, by sports journalist Tim Livingston. The multi-part podcast examines illegal gambling and Mafia influence in the NBA.

Donaghy, who lives in Sarasota, Florida, is associated with a sports betting service called Ref Picks: Tim Donaghys Handicappers. The Ref Picks website notes that Donaghy knows how and what can affect a score.” The site adds that Donaghy has a leg up on most handicappers” because of his insider experience in officiating games.”

Donaghy is not the only former sports figure affiliated with a sports betting company. Former Major League Baseball player and manager Pete Rose also is associated with a handicapping service. In the 1980s, Rose was banned from baseball for betting on and against his team.

Rose recently agreed to serve as a national spokesman for oddsmaker Wayne Allyn Roots Vegas Winners sports-wagering analysis and advice service. 

This comes as sports betting is spreading across the country. Nationwide, 20 states and Washington, D.C., allow sports wagering either on mobile devices or in-person at casino sportsbooks. Legislation to allow sports betting is up for consideration in Georgia and other states.