As Minnesota Discusses Legalization, Hometown NBA Star Claims Foul Play

Written By Phil West on March 12, 2024 - Last Updated on March 13, 2024
Rudy Gobert complains to an official during the Timberwolves-Cavaliers matchup last Friday

A Minnesota Timberwolves player, upset about fouling out of a game on Friday night, hinted gambling influenced the officials’ calls.

The incident comes as lawmakers are debating legalizing Minnesota sports betting. This year, three bills circulating through the legislature could allow Minnesotans to bet.

Rudy Gobert, a center for the Timberwolves, fouled out of Friday night’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers with less than 30 seconds left in regulation. According to Sports Illustrated‘s account, “The center immediately made a money gesture at the referees, resulting in a one-shot technical foul for Cleveland.”

Gobert blamed sports betting’s popularity for the calls

Cleveland would win the game in overtime, 113-104. Afterward, Gobert told reporters from The Athletic that the calls weren’t mistakes. It was deeper than that.

“I made some mistakes. I air-balled a dunk. Mistakes happen. Referees make mistakes, too. But sometimes I think it’s more than mistakes. I think everyone that’s in this league knows. I think it’s got to get better,” the six-time all-star said.

Gobert expected to receive a fine for his comments. Especially after he linked sports betting to the calls.

“I think it’s hurting our game. I know the betting and all that is becoming bigger and bigger, but it shouldn’t feel that way,” Gobert said.

The NBA is clearly sensitive to this issue, given that it once had a high-profile scandal involving referee — Tim Donaghy, who pled guilty to charges of betting and fixing NBA games in 2007 and was sentenced to 15 months in prison.

Not surprisingly, the NBA fined Gobert $100,000 for the gesture. According to an ESPN report, the league accounted for past actions when levying the fine.

“NBA executive vice president and head of basketball operations Joe Dumars announced that ‘the fine takes into account Gobert’s past instances of conduct detrimental to the NBA with regard to publicly criticizing the officiating.'”

The league has fined Gobert four times for criticizing the league’s officiating.

Could this affect Minnesota sports betting?

It’s unlikely this incident directly affects the sports betting issue in Minnesota. Especially since the allegations come from a player with a checkered past.

But the timing couldn’t be worse.

Minnesota could join 38 states and the District of Columbia to offer a legal betting market. One of three bills up for consideration, SF 1949, is moving through the Senate’s committee process and toward a floor vote. Along the way, though, it acquired an amendment banning in-game wagering as part of the legislation allowing people to bet on games.

While a study shows the amendment could hurt the market, these allegations could make the amendment more likely to pass.

Minnesota, Missouri, and Georgia are the three states with sports betting legislation on the table this year. Of the three states, Minnesota could easily be the favorite to pass it.

Photo by AP Photo / Sue Ogrocki
Phil West Avatar
Written by
Phil West

Phil West is a longtime journalist based in Austin, Texas, whose bylines have appeared in The Daily Dot, Nautilus, Pro Soccer USA, Howler, Los Angeles Times, Seattle Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, San Antonio Express-News, Austin American-Statesman, and Austin Chronicle. He has also written two books about soccer.

View all posts by Phil West
Privacy Policy