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Chris Paul creates firestorm with criticism of female referee: “This might not be for her”

Lauren Holtkamp

Lauren Holtkamp


Above is the full post-game quote from Chris Paul — after his team was beaten soundly on national television and picked up five technical fouls in the process — that created a firestorm online.

“I think we’ve got to show better composure, but at the same time some of ‘em was ridiculous. Like the tech I got right there was ridiculous. I don’t care what nobody say, I don’t care what she say, that’s terrible. There’s no way that can be a technical. We try to get the ball out quick every time down the court and when we did that she said ‘Uh-uh (no)’ and I said ‘Why uh-uh?’ and she gave me a tech. That’s ridiculous. If that’s the case then this might not be for her.”

His use of the pronoun “her” and calling out a female referee led some on Twitter to rush in to defend Lauren Holtkamp, the female referee who handed out the technical to Paul. She is one of two female referees in the NBA this season and numerous people defended her right to be an official in the league saying Paul came off as sexist.

Of course, the combination of Twitter and small-minded people who don’t think women should be involved in men’s sports led to a backlash unleashed on Holtkamp and her defenders.

All because of the pronoun “her.”

Chris Paul is going to get fined by the league for this — not because of the pronoun but because any time a referee is criticized the player gets fined. The league protects its referees, even if the calls are wrong.

Holtkamp is a rookie promoted from the D-League to this job and rookie referees get little slack from veteran players (and coaches) as it is. They see the rookies as struggling to get used to the league, just as rookie players do. Players talk back to rookie referees faster than the veterans they trust. And the Clippers had issues with Holtkamp earlier this season (in a game against Miami).

The difference here with Paul was calling out the referee in postgame comments, and using the pronoun “she.” Even if it’s accurate, some would take offense.

From my interactions with Chris Paul, seeing him frustrated with officials in postgame comments before, I believe this is just him venting about the call, not making sexist remarks. I don’t think he meant it as an attack on all female referees, I think he just didn’t like the call against him. But it reads very poorly.

In this case it was a perfect storm of quick triggers from the officials (not just Holtkamp but the entire crew) and a frustrated Clippers squad that was getting blown out. All game the Clippers were whining to the officials as if the people with the whistles were the cause of their loss. They weren’t. The Clippers were down by more than 20 by the time the techs came flying, and that has been a symptom of the inconsistent Clippers this season — they complain on court when frustrated.

The Clippers’ style of play is predictable and that makes their margin for error smaller than many teams — if they are not at the peak of their game and executing cleanly top teams can run them out of the building. Which is what the Cavaliers did Thursday night.

Then the Clippers get frustrated and vent at the officials. And some officials have quick triggers — Holtkamp gave a technical to DeAndre Jordan when he yelled a loud swear word after a dunk. It was part of a string of technicals — Matt Barnes got one for grabbing Kevin Love’s arm at one point, something that was a foul, but not worthy of a technical. Not much later Barnes was ejected for a second technical.

Part of the story should be how the Clippers whine to officials when it’s often about their play. As Paul notes, the Clippers need to work on their composure.

But instead, the focus will be on a pronoun.