'She's not bad'
NBA's female ref staying out of limelight in playoffs
Posted: Friday April 27, 2007 3:48PM; Updated: Friday April 27, 2007 5:46PM
The best referees go unnoticed, but that seems to be a daunting task in today's NBA. Incidents such as the one on April 15 when veteran official Joe Crawford ejected a benched Tim Duncan for laughing achieve the very opposite of this.
But Thursday night during the Pistons' 93-77 win over the Magic in Game 3, Violet Palmer's presence on the court was barely registerable, depite five technical fouls called during the game. That she was the only woman chasing players up and down the Amway Arena floor in Orlando seems unremarkable when, in truth, it's anything but.
Rounding off her 10th NBA season, Palmer, 42, remains the sole woman among the league's 59-member officiating staff and the lone female ref in any of the four major professional sports. Still, "It doesn't feel like I've arrived," she says. "I have to keep working harder."
Thursday's game, in which Detroit improved its series lead to 3-0, marked Palmer's second career postseason assignment -- a milestone that speaks to the confidence she's earned from her superiors.
"We knew that Violet was a dependable and conscientious referee," says NBA director of officials Ronnie Nunn, adding that she could see more action in this year's playoffs. "Now people say of Palmer what you hear of most refs who've 'got it': 'You know, she's not bad.' "
Though she has found acceptance within the NBA's predominantly male ranks, the derision that marked her formative years as a league official has not completely died out. The loudest and most recent reminder came last February at a Rockets-Celtics game. When Palmer made a call early in the contest that rankled Boston radio analyst Cedric (Cornbread) Maxwell, a former Celtic, he blurted out -- on-air -- for her to "get back in the kitchen ... and fix me some bacon and eggs."
The resultant public outrage over Maxwell's comments -- Imus-esque in their antiquity -- eventually compelled him to apologize. But in hindsight his remarks seem more baseless than boorish. "I really don't think he put much thought into it," Palmer says.
Truth is, Palmer has always been one of the guys -- from her playground days growing up in Compton, Calif., to now. Beyond her own private locker room, she's afforded no special treatment. She wears the same uniform (albeit with some minor tailoring to fit her proportions), works the same hectic schedule (10 to 11 games a month) and, today, commands the same respect from players and coaches as her male counterparts.
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