Fred VanVleet's harsh criticism of referee Ben Taylor was nothing short of unprecedented. As a result, VanVleet received a fine from the league office, and the media began to explore Taylor's role as an official.
On The JD Bunkis Podcast, Tom Haberstroh of Basketball Illuminati shared a theory that Taylor had been demoted in his refereeing assignments since the Raptors guard criticized him following a game on March 8.
Haberstroh used Taylor's referee assignments as evidence to support that he had consistently taken on a lesser role. As the shift in assignments supported the claim, the theory took a life of its own, causing the NBA Referees Association to attempt to clarify on Twitter.
Did Fred VanVleet's rant cause the NBA to demote referee Ben Taylor
"This is categorically false," the NBA Referees said, quoting an aggregated tweet that referenced Haberstroh's theory. "The schedule for the games referenced was released weeks in advance.
'Ben Taylor is a Part Time Crew Chief and frequently receives Referee assignments throughout the season. His positional assignments remained unchanged."
This is categorically false. The schedule for the games referenced was released weeks in advance. Ben Taylor is a Part Time Crew Chief and frequently receives Referee assignments throughout the season. His positional assignments remained unchanged. https://t.co/BxRr7yY2k0— NBA Referees (@OfficialNBARefs) March 24, 2023
For more context, take a look back at Haberstroh's theory in full:
Since that Fred VanVleet rant, the NBA has actually demoted Ben Taylor in his assignments. In the last five games, Ben Taylor has only been the crew chief once. He's been the Referee 2 four times since that game, since that rant, which is a real abnormality with Ben Taylor.
If you look at his previous 52 games this season, Ben Taylor was the crew chief in 41 of those games — basically, four out of five games he was the crew chief. But in the last five games since that rant, the NBA said, 'You know what, you're going to be the Referee 2 in this one.' And then again, Referee 2. He was the crew chief against the Celtics-Houston game the other night, and then Ben Taylor was the Referee 2 for the next two games.
To put into perspective, Ben Taylor hadn't been a Referee 2 in back-to-back games all season. After the Fred VanVleet [rant], it's happened twice.
I don't know if that's intentional or whether that's just luck of the draw, but certainly the NBA has taken a different tact when it comes to Ben Taylor's assignments, whether that's punishment or whether that's just, 'You need to chill out a little bit.'
The NBA reveals referee assignments for each day's games on the NBA Official site.
Based on that, Taylor had been listed as Official 1 in 12 straight games prior to VanVleet's rant on March 8. As Haberstroh pointed out, Taylor has been Official 1 once in the five games since.
Taylor was last listed as Official 1 for a game between the Hawks and Timberwolves on Wednesday, March 22.
|Lakers at Nets||January 30||Official 2|
|Kings at Spurs||February 1||Official 1|
|Clippers at Knicks||February 4||Official 1|
|Celtics at Pistons||February 6||Official 1|
|Hornets at Wizards||February 8||Official 1|
|Timberwolves at Grizzlies||February 10||Official 1|
|Spurs at Hawks||February 11||Official 1|
|Magic at Raptors||February 14||Official 1|
|Hornets at Timberwolves||February 24||Official 1|
|Kings at Thunder||February 26||Official 1|
|76ers at Heat||March 1||Official 1|
|Rockets at Spurs||March 4||Official 1|
|Raptors at Clippers||March 8||Official 1|
|Knicks at Kings||March 9||Official 2|
|Bucks at Warriors||March 11||Official 2|
|Celtics at Rockets||March 13||Official 1|
|Thunder at Raptors||March 16||Official 2|
|Nuggets at Nets||March 19||Official 2|
|Hawks at Timberwolves||March 22||Official 1|
What's the difference between Official 1, Official 2 and Official 3?
Official 1 is the Crew Chief Position, Official 2 is the Referee Position and Official 3 is the Umpire Position.
Official 1: Crew Chief Position
- Proficient in Referee and Umpire positions
- Leader of the crew, on and off the floor
- High-level play calling, partnering skills, and tools for handling any game situation, including interpersonal communication
- Understands the importance of extending into their secondary area of coverage, with accuracy
Official 2: Referee Position
- Proficient in all Umpire position requirements
- Effectively the glue for a crew through consistency, teamwork, and communication - makes partners better by carrying a larger portion of the crew’s load than an Umpire
- Capable of handling some plays in secondary area of coverage
- Ability to recognize and appropriately manage shifts in game conditions (intensity, emotions, decorum, style of play etc.)
Official 3: Umpire Position
- Aggressively and accurately calls plays in the primary area of responsibility
- Responsible for basic mechanics including rotations, positioning and clock and team foul awareness
- Strong rules knowledge coupled with contributions to in-game discussions/issues regarding adjudication
What did Fred VanVleet say about Ben Taylor?
Following a 108-100 loss to the Clippers on March 8, VanVleet criticized Taylor in his postgame media availability.
VanVleet received a technical foul in the game for, he says, telling his teammates, "Let's keep playing through the bull—."
"I don't mind, I'll take a fine — I don't really care," VanVleet said. "I thought Ben Taylor was f—ing terrible tonight. On most nights, out of the three (referees), there's one or two that just f— the game up and it's been like that a couple of games in a row.
"Denver was tough, obviously. You come out tonight, you're competing pretty hard, third quarter, I get a bulls— tech, changes the whole dynamic of the game, changes the whole flow of the game.
"Most of the refs, they're trying hard, I like a lot of the refs, they're trying hard, they're pretty fair, they communicate well. And then you've got the other ones who just want to be dicks and it kind of just f—s the game up. Nobody's coming to see that s—. They're coming to see the players. I think we're losing a little bit of the fabric of what the NBA is and was, and it's been disappointing this season.
"You can look up, most of my techs this year have been with Ben Taylor officiating, so at a certain point as a player, you feel it's personal — it's never a good place to be, that's not why we lost tonight, we got outplayed, but it definitely makes it tougher to overcome."
Here's the video of VanVleet's rant, which contains strong language:
“I don’t mind, I’ll take a fine. I don’t really care. I thought Ben Taylor was f***ing terrible tonight. On most nights, out of the 3, there’s 1 or 2 that f*** the game up.”— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) March 9, 2023
Fred VanVleet on tonight’s officials, and NBA officiating: pic.twitter.com/Plp8DaqNp5
The NBA fined VanVleet $30,000 for his comments.