NBA Refs’ Suppression Of Emotion Is Hurting The Game

Keeping physical contact in check and deterring fighting is one thing, but ejecting Trae Young was foul and the NBA needs to do better.

The Atlanta Hawks’ Trae Young has surpassed lauded Dallas Mavericks freshman guard Luka Doncic since the NBA All-Star break as the league’s most dominant rookie. He’s averaging 29.7 points per game and 8.7 assists and he’s shooting an insane 51.7 % on three-pointers.

His confidence is at 100 and his swag is in full college form, but the NBA doesn’t seem to want him showing any emotion or bringing any entertainment value to a miserable Hawks team that can use all of the fan excitement it can muster. Young hung 49 points on the Bulls and Kris Dunn on Friday night in four OT’s, so naturally, that battle spilled into Sunday night’s game. 

In a strange turn of events, Young was egregiously ejected from the game in the third quarter after receiving his second technical foul for staring at Dunn. The two also exchanged a few whispers from across the court.  The league refers to it as “taunting”.

Sam Smith on Twitter

Another historic Bulls/Hawks game as officials make worst call in NBA history. Trae Young 3 for 78-62 lead. Puts hands on hips and stares. Taunting T and ejected after previously having one. NBA now going back and eject Steph Curry and LeBron for every game they’ve played.


Young was having a heck of a game too. He had 18 points and five assists on 6-of-9 shooting. Without his ability to fill it up, there’s no reason for anyone to even watch the Hawks, who are 22-42 and in the thick of the lottery battle.  

So it’s odd that the refs would choose to have one of the NBA’s shining new talents thrown out of the game for something as insignificant as looking at a player during the heat of battle. If anything, the narrative should be how positive and productive a player like has Young been.

The player who entered the league with the most question marks is quickly asserting himself as a future superstar with a fire burning, despite the horrible season by his team.

ESPN on Twitter

ICYMI: With 49 points and 16 assists, Trae Young became the first rookie to record a 45-point, 10-assist game since Michael Jordan ? https://t.co/t05Qzu3EfM


You don’t have to bump or push anyone in the NBA to get ejected. Apparently, all you have to do now is stare at someone. I remember when guys like Rasheed Wallace got techs for staring at the ref, but now you can’t even stare at your opponent.

Whack! Get out! Rasheed ejected by Ron Garretson.

Rasheed Wallace with his usual antics with the refs, specifically Ron Garretson. Get away for me, Steve!!

Although LeBron James and Adam Silver sing the NBA’s praises when it comes to the freedom the league allows its players off the court, the relationship between the officials and players has always been somewhat contentious. 

As the league has become increasingly more regulated, NBA players have gotten frustrated with referees’ quick whistles and low tolerance for conversation. James Harden asked that “arrogant” referee Scott Foster never do another Rockets game after his team blew a 19-point lead in a 111-106 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers a few weeks ago. Fellow Rockets star Chris Paul shared Harden’s sentiment, seemingly at a loss for words after both players fouled out in the game.

Rachel Nichols on Twitter

Chris Paul on his relationship with referee Scott Foster: “I don’t know what else to do – I’ve met with the league with him before. I don’t know what else to do.” James Harden: “For sure it’s personal, for sure.” Harden says Foster shouldn’t officiate Rockets games anymore.


Having an emotional edge and a killer’s mentality is what makes most of these players elite. Keeping physical contact unrelated to the game in check and deterring fighting is one thing. But treating pro players like CYO kids is another, and the NBA has to find a balance quickly.


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