By Steve Almasy
(CNN) — NBA star Chris Paul has been called for many technical fouls through the years. His latest is drawing perhaps the most notice, and his criticism of the female referee who called it has drawn a $25,000 fine from the league.
The conversation around the technical has centered on what Paul said about rookie referee Lauren Holtkamp, one of two female officials in the NBA.
The NBA said Paul was being fined for “public criticism of officiating.” The league’s statement announcing the fine didn’t mention the official’s gender.
Paul said her call during a Los Angeles Clippers loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers was “ridiculous” and “terrible.”
“We try to get the ball out fast every time down the court, and when we did that, she said, ‘Uh-uh.’ I said, ‘Why, uh-uh?’ And she gave me a tech,” the Clippers point guard told reporters after the game Thursday. “That’s ridiculous. If that’s the case, this might not be for her.”
Critics focused on the last sentence, accusing the nine-year veteran of sexism.
“We deplore the unprofessional comments made by Chris Paul. She belongs,” the National Basketball Referees Association said in a written statement.
Other people, including San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon, defended Paul.
“I don’t think it had anything to do with the ref’s gender,” she tweeted.
And the director of the National Basketball Association Players Association, Michele Roberts, also denied it was a gender-based comment.
“Any suggestion that Chris Paul would ever conduct himself in a disrespectful manner towards women is utterly ridiculous, outrageous and patently false,” she said, according to media reports.
Before a game Friday, Paul was asked several times about the comment. Each time he said: “Last night was about a bad call.”
Paul, who is the players’ union president, was fined $15,000 in 2011 when he was with the then-New Orleans Hornets for verbally abusing a referee.
According to ESPN’s NBA statistics, Paul has been called for 79 technical fouls in his career.
Violet Palmer is the other female referee and has worked NBA games since 1997.
Dee Kantner worked NBA games for five years and is now the WNBA supervisor of officials.
CNN’s Jason Durand and Wayne Sterling contributed to this report.
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