NBA denies Mavericks' protest, fines Mark Cuban $500K

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Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has been fined $500,000 for "public criticism and detrimental conduct regarding NBA officiating," the league office announced Friday.

The NBA also denied the Mavs' protest of their loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Feb. 22, after which Cuban confronted the referees on the court and criticized them on Twitter and while speaking to reporters.

The NBA said in a statement that Cuban's comments were "highly critical, personal and demeaning to the league and its officiating staff" and that he continued to publicly criticize the officiating over the following days.

"It is a recognized part of sports for fans and the media at times to criticize officiating, but team executives must be held to a higher standard," the NBA said. "A team owner's effort to influence refereeing decisions during and after a game creates the perception of an unfair competitive advantage and thereby undermines the integrity of the game.

"Demeaning league employees also creates an intimidating workplace environment. With an increased focus on respectful conduct by coaches, players and fans during games, the actions of team executives should set an example and not lower expectations for appropriate behavior in our arenas."

The league noted that Cuban's postgame confrontation with the referees marked the second time he had walked on to the court to challenge a call during the game.

In addition to fining Cuban, the NBA sent a memo to all teams reminding them of rules that govern conduct of owners, coaches and other team personnel during games.

The memo, obtained by The Associated Press, laid out parameters for proper conduct by team personnel toward game officials, how team personnel other than coaches are not allowed on the court during games and how they cannot use "profane or objectionable language that might be heard by spectators" during the game.

Further, the memo, which did not mention Cuban specifically, said the league's "enforcement of these rules with enhanced penalties will be a point of emphasis for the league office" during the rest of the season and beyond.

Cuban has been a longtime critic of NBA officiating and its management -- accumulating more than $3 million in fines -- but this is the first time Cuban has been so public in his attacks of league management since he had to pay a $10 million donation to charity in 2018 after the unearthing of sexual misconduct within the Mavericks organization.

This is Cuban's third fine of at least $500,000 as Mavericks owner. He was fined $600,000 in February 2018 for saying "losing is our best option" on a podcast with Hall of Famer Julius Erving and admitting that the Mavericks had been tanking for more than a year. He was fined $500,000 in January 2002 for comments on officiating after a loss to the Spurs.

Cuban also has three other fines of at least $200,000 for conduct or comments toward officials.

"What I'll say on the record is hopefully they'll let us release our actual filing of the protest," Cuban said Friday before the Mavericks' home game against Memphis. "I'm waiting to hear back from them. Then everybody gets to see why we thought it needed to be protested."

Cuban, in attendance for Friday night's game, wore a T-shirt that appeared to reference his latest fine.

Cuban also said he would match the fine with a donation that would include funding the heart transplant of a local man.

In the game against the Hawks, Cuban was irate that the officials counted a putback by Atlanta's John Collins with 8.4 seconds remaining following a goaltending call that was overturned upon replay review. The decision essentially sealed the Hawks' win over the Mavericks.

"Refs have bad games," Cuban tweeted. "Crews have bad games. But this isn't a single game issue. This is the same s--- that has been going on for 20 years. Hire former refs who think they know how to hire, train and manage. Realize 2 years later they can't. Repeat."

Commissioner Adam Silver determined there was no misapplication of playing rules on Collins' putback, which was the grounds of the Mavs' protest.

"The Replay Center Official correctly understood the rules to require that Collins' basket count if he was in the act of shooting when the goaltending call was made," the NBA said in the statement. "The Replay Center Official also correctly followed the established process of replay review.

"The league's investigation included an analysis of the game footage showing that the whistle began to sound one-fifteenth of a second before Collins gained possession of the ball. However, it is well-established by prior NBA protest decisions that a factual determination by game officials -- including replay officials -- that is shown in a post-game review to be incorrect is not a misapplication of the playing rules.

"While officials strive to get every call right, games cannot be replayed when, after the fact and free from the need to make rulings in real time, a different judgment about events on the playing floor can be made. For these reasons, Commissioner Silver found that the extraordinary remedy of granting a game protest and replaying the last portion of a completed game was not warranted."

The NBA statement listed several actions that the league has taken to "enhance its officiating program through improved management, training, transparency, and technology," noting that these steps were made in part due to input from team executives including Cuban.

"Officiating is one of the toughest jobs in sports," the final paragraph of the statement read. "While officials remain accountable for their on-court performance, maintaining competitive fairness and the integrity of the game is a fundamental obligation of the league office, team owners and personnel, and players.

ESPN NBA Senior Insider Adrian Wojnarowski and The Associated Press contributed to this report.