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Business Jujitsu: How to Fight a Hit to Your Credibility

The NBA has a major problem stemming from claims an ex-referee has made about biased calls. If it is smart, it will take proactive steps to save its reputation now.

Like many people, I was surprised to hear the news that a disgraced former NBA referee, Tim Donaghy, alleges that Game Six of the 2002 Western Conference Finals between the Lakers and the Kings was tilted the Lakers' way by the refs.

Now, I happened to live in Sacramento at that time. I watched that game. I didn't like that my team lost and I really didn't like some of the calls. But I also knew that I was not entirely unbiased. "Fan," after all, is short for "fanatic."

I have no way of knowing whether ex-referee Donaghy's allegations are true, but I do know that the NBA has a real problem on its hands that it better get a handle on pronto.

The NBA has a fantastic brand, one that is the envy of businesses large and small alike. It has sponsorship relationships with companies like Federal Express (FDX) and McDonald's (MCD). It has loyal customers and a global market.

And it also has a big perception problem.

One poll I saw indicated that 60% of NBA fans thought that this allegation by Donaghy is "just the tip of the iceberg." That is bad news.

What's the Fix?

So what is the NBA to do?

It needs to do what any business should do when things go unexpectedly wrong, namely something I call "Business Jujitsu."

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