Tim Donaghy: who was NBA referee, why did he go to jail - when is Untold: Operation Flagrant Foul on Netflix?

Untold: Operation Flagrant Foul tells the true story of a former NBA referee who placed bets on the games he officiated

Operation Flagrant Foul is a part of the Netflix sports documentary series Untold which sheds light on major global sports events of recent history.

This latest instalment is focused on former NBA referee Tim Donaghy who spent years working in the top flight of American basketball before he fell from grace in spectacular fashion.

Donaghy had a well paid job working alongside American sports stars, a loving wife, and a good reputation, but he lost it all when he was arrested for betting on games he officaited.

Tim Donaghy in Operation Flagrant Foul

Who is Tim Donaghy?

Tim Donaghy, 55, is a former basketball referee from Pennsylvania who worked in the NBA from 1994-2007.

Over his career, he refereed almost 800 games but resigned from the NBA when the FBI opened an investigation into him.

Before joining the NBA Donaghy worked as a referee for high school basketball games and for the minor league CBA.

Several years after starting in the NBA Donaghy, who had a gambling problem, began placing bets of tens of thousands of dollars on the 2005-6 and 2006-7 seasons.

He began passing confidential information that he was privy to through his role as a referee to his friend James Battista who would place bets based on this knowledge.

Donaghy was paid thousands of dollars for every correct pick that he gave to Battista. Another of Donaghy’s friends, Thomas Martino, was involved in the scheme.

The three men involved in the betting scandal each served time in prison

The investigation into Donaghy also brought heat onto the NBA itself, as it was claimed that some referees were pressured to manipulate games in such a way that would benefit the NBA - however these allegations were found to be unsubstantiated.

Donaghy was ordered to pay a $500,000 fine plus restitution to the NBA, and was sentenced to jail for 15 months. Battista also received 15 months whilst Martino was sentenced to 366 days.

Whilst in prison, Donaghy was attacked and required surgery on his knee - he blamed the attack on the New York Mafia.

He also wrote a memoir, Personal Foul: A First-Person Account of the Scandal That Rocked the NBA, which was published after his release.

Where is Tim Donaghy now?

Donaghy was released from prison after 11 months but was taken to county jail for breaching the terms of his release when he was spotted at a health club when he was supposed to be at work.

He was released in 2009 and sued the publisher of his memoir because they had not paid him - he was awarded $1.3 million.

He has since appeared in two documentaries about the scandal, Dirty Games - The dark side of sports, and the Netflix feature Untold: Operation Flagrant Foul.

Donaghy was arrested in December 2017 for aggravated assault but released on a $5,000 bond - he has not been rearrested.

In 2021, Donaghy debuted as a professional wrestling referee, where he plays off his infamy as a result of the betting scandal.

He married his wife Kimberly in 1995 and they have four daughters together - in 2007 after the scandal broke, Kimberly divorced him.

What is Untold: Operation Flagrant Foul about?

The documentary follows the FBI investigation into Donaghy’s sports betting scandal.

It hears from those most closely involved, as Donaghy and Martino both speak on the documentary.

Operation Flagrant Foul was the name given to the FBI case which planned to use Donaghy as an undercover agent.

The documentary is 77 minutes long and follows Donaghy from the start of his career to his disgrace and arrest.

When is Untold: Operation Flagrant Foul on Netflix?

Operation Flagrant Foul was released on Netflix on 30 August and is available to stream now.

It is part of a series of documentaries that revisits major events in sports history.

Others in the series which are available to watch now include: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist, Crimes & Penalties, Malice at the Palace, Caitlyn Jenner, Breaking Point, The Rise and Fall of And1, and Deal With the Devil.

Another instalment in the Untold series, The Race of the Century, will come to Netlflix on 6 September.

Is there a trailer?

Yes there is, and you can watch it right here: