‘Shame on her’: NCAA removes female game official at halftime over reported background conflict

The first-round play for March Madness was mildly marred when a woke referee failed to disclose an entirely different kind of bias.

Saturday, the NCAA women’s basketball tournament kicked off for No. 3 seed North Carolina State as they faced off against the No. 14 University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. The Wolfpack would go on to top the Mocs in a 64-45 victory setting the stage for a Monday bout against the Lady Volunteers from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, but not before a referee was pulled from the game for failure to disclose her connection to her alma mater.

When the press questioned why Umpire 2 Tommi Paris had been pulled from the game at halftime, and why the assigned standby wasn’t used as her replacement, the NCAA released a statement that merely hinted at the ref’s graduate experience at Chattanooga.

“There was a switch of game officials at halftime of the Chattanooga-NC State first-round game because it was learned after the game had started that Umpire 2 Tommi Paris had a background conflict that, if known, would prevent her from working that assigned game,” the statement read.

Instead of moving standby official Danielle Jackson out onto the court, the statement explained, “The decision was made to move Angelica Suffren, who had worked the first game of the session, into the Umpire 2 position because it provided the most on-court experience and allowed the game to maintain a full officiating crew, plus standby.”

Paris, who received a master’s degree in public administration from Chattanooga, wasn’t alone in failing to disclose details as the Mocs coach Shawn Poppie remained in the dark about the official swap during the postgame press conference.

“They literally just…got me in the locker room and said they were making a change,” he told reporters. “I don’t know what happened. I didn’t see anything specific. Maybe the second time in my career that’s happened. But the other one there was an injury, so you knew. But this one, I’m not really sure.”

In a follow-up question, Poppie was asked about the decision to rotate Suffren into play instead of Jackson prompting him to respond, “I wish I could talk more about it. I don’t really know — I thought that’s what standby was for. But I’m new to this thing too. So, we’re all learning. So I’m not exactly sure what happened.”

The calm response from the coach was not reflective of the hammering the NCAA took on social media as user slammed the apparent inability to “run a Google search on officials” while calling for Paris to be permanently banned.

As it happened, when Paris wasn’t moonlighting as an allegedly biased referee for the NCAA, she was applying diversity, equity and inclusion to energy companies — including her current role as the DEI and Environmental Justice Advisor for Adamantine Energy. She had previously served as senior vice president of DEI Strategy for IPG DXTRA and director of DEI Strategy for Southern Company Gas according to her profile on the Adamantine website.

Her continued participation in collegiate officiating was touted as allowing her “to practice conflict resolution and manage competitive tension, which she considers to be one of her super powers.”

Kevin Haggerty


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