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NBA tough guys warned by woman ref’s brother

October 30, 1997

TORRANCE, Calif. (AP) _ Referee baiters like Dennis Rodman and Charles Barkley better not get in Violet Palmer’s face, or they’ll have to answer to her brother.

``I’m more worried than she is,″ Rod Palmer told the South Bay Daily Breeze after the NBA announced that his sister, and Dee Kanter of Charlotte, N.C., are becoming the league’s first women referees. ``I’ve been around a lot of basketball players and NBA players and the way they talk, the things they say. That’s still my sister.″

Palmer’s father, James, a retired metalworker, says he has tried to watch as many of the games officiated by his daughter as possible as she worked her way up through high school, college, men’s pro exhibition games and the first year of the WNBA women’s professional league.

``I watch tapes on her and I’ll say, `You shouldn’t have done that.′ She’ll say, `Oh yeah? Let’s run the tape back.‴

But that’s after a game. During the action, she won’t take any guff, her father told the newspaper.

``She is strictly for business. If they do wrong, she will put it on them. ... She will give them a T if it’s T time. I know that.″

Palmer, 33, has been a pioneer before. She was the first girl to play in the boys’ baseball league at Victory Park in Compton.

``She told me, `Mom, I want to play this softball,‴ Gussie Palmer said. ``I was thinking it was going to be girls, but she said, `I don’t know if you want me to play or not because it’s all boys.′ I said, `If you want to play, you can play.‴

The only girl on the team, Violet was a shortstop and pitcher and had no problem fitting in.

``She was right there with us,″ said younger brother Rod Palmer, the basketball coach at Compton High. ``She was a lot better than some of the guys. She was very athletic.″

Basketball was her first love, however. Her parents played, her brother played and her nephew, Wun Vesher, is a Harlem Globetrotter.

``My father put a hoop up in the back yard and we played all the time,″ Rod Palmer said. ``She was a lot better than me when we were a bit younger. ... The guys knew that she could play. She was one of the first to be picked all the time.″

Palmer was a standout on the girls’ team in high school, then played on Division II national championship teams two years at Cal Poly-Pomona.

``This is one of the greatest things that’s happened in our entire family,″ her brother said. ``We are all happy for her. It didn’t come easy. She worked hard for it. That’s been her personality from when we were kids up until now.″

``I am just bubbling over,″ said her mother. She and her husband are considering buying a satellite dish so they can watch games worked by their daughter.

The NBA does not announce referee assignments, but family members said they planned a quick trip to Vancouver, B.C. _ where the Grizzlies open their season playing Dallas Friday night and Sacramento Saturday night.

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