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 DENVER (AP) -Sports officials are worried the NBA betting scandal will ripple through all levels of sports, bringing increased heckling and distrust from fans.
``This is an absolute tragedy, but we brought it upon ourselves,'' said Barry Mano, president and founder of the National Association of Sports Officials. ``We bring impartiality. This calls that into question, and it will be up and down the ladder - in all sports, on all levels.''
Former NBA referee Tim Donaghy is the target of an FBI investigation for allegedly betting on games, including some he officiated, over the last two seasons. He resigned July 9.
As are all NBA officials, Donaghy was a member of NASO, whose mission is, among other things, to enhance the image of officials.
Irv Brown, a former NCAA basketball official, said the scandal will have the opposite effect.
``You've lost the trust of the American people,'' said Brown, the keynote speaker at the convention's opening night, one dominated by talk about Donaghy and how officials must police themselves more closely now.
``They're really concerned,'' Brown said. ``They know it's going to give them a black eye. They were talking Saturday night that it's going to be a whole new ballgame. Everything is going to have to be reevaluated, everywhere.
``Instead of people yelling, 'Hey ref, you stink,' they'll say, 'Hey ref, you cheat.'''
The catcalls will cut across sports, said Tony Michalek, an NFL official and director of officiating for USA Football.
``It's going to make everyone look at all of us more closely,'' he said.
There has always been a give-and-take relationship between player and referee, as well as between the public and game officials. The good-natured pokes of ``Hey Blue, that's not a strike!'' and ``Open your eyes, ref!'' have been a part of the landscape for generations.
Those jabs are fine, Mano said, but he believes there will be more critical comments and accusations that officials are ``homers,'' deliberately blowing the whistle or throwing a flag - or not - to unfairly help one team.
``People now have a stone on which to stand and ask questions,'' Mano said. ``It's brought bad attention.''

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