Former NBA referee Tim Donaghy. d279c63d-1d66-40e9-b9ab-3611aa10096e

Perhaps the largest gambling controversy around sports since the 1919 “Black Sox” was the scandal around NBA referee Tim Donaghy in 2007. Now, as per Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News, that scandal is set for a documentary treatment at Netflix:

Netflix seems like a good fit for this project, as they’ve jumped into sports documentaries in a large way. And one of those previous projects, Bad Sport, had a specific focus on illegal activity in sports ; it’s not yet clear if the Donaghy project is going to be part of that series or if it will be its own thing or attached to another project, but there’s a strong history of some Netflix sports documentaries looking at criminal elements beyond sports. (In another series, one of the most standout episodes of Untold so far was “Crime and Penalties,” on Mafia-linked trash baron Jimmy Galante and his minor-league hockey team. And Untold also took on a NBA saga that went beyond the court in Untold: Malice at the Palace. So there’s strong precedent here for Netflix looking at sports stories that go beyond sports.

As per the specific Donaghy story, that has already been explored in a film. That would be 2019’s Inside Game, starring Scott Wolf as Tommy Martino, Eric Mabius as Donaghy, and Will Sasso as Baba Battista. But it’s definitely interesting to hear about a documentary-style treatment of his story.

And Donaghy’s reported involvement in this project is worth discussing. The idea of having subjects with any level of authority over stories about them remains anathema to some projects, such as HBO’s Real Sports, but there are also plenty of documentaries where the key subject does have some level of approval (such as the ESPN/Netflix joint project The Last Dance, which drew some criticism for its level of subject involvement). And some films with subject involvement have worked out okay for viewers. But subject involvement certainly does raise a number of questions, and those will continue around any documentary with Donaghy’s involvement.

[Stefan Bondy on Twitter; Donaghy photo via CBS Sports]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.