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September 12, 2023

Dear Refs,

After one week of speculation and two weeks of just letting the information settle, it is finally time to publish the news of who is taking over assigning referees for Open Gym Premier (OGP) leagues and tournaments since they decided to go anti-Union.

It is going to be a tag-team of four separate assignors.

The first is Ray Charles.  Granted, this is kind of a misnomer because OGP has been using Ray since he took over interim duties for me when we weren't ready to come back from the COVID pandemic.  He has always assigned the Scholastic Series of leagues and tournaments that OGP holds in conjunction with Servite and other high schools.  However, now he will also be occasionally be given a regular OGP tournament, no telling yet when and which.

I want to make this perfectly clear:  out of all of our "replacements," I only support Ray Charles.  He is a very strong proponent of keeping rates up and he takes care of you guys on the floor.  When serving as interim assignor during the COVID pandemic, he secured immediate cash payments for all his crews.  He also accomplished what I couldn't (save that one time) and he did what other local assignors are too scared to even try:   Ray Charles got you $40 consistently for all high-school format games (stop-clock).
Unfortunately, because of this, Ray is worried that he will be next out the door since he actually does his job as
your representative instead of being an OGP lackey.   
Therefore, please support Ray ⏤ I encourage you to get on his roster, help him at Ladera, Anaheim, and anywhere else he might need it. 

Next up is Jesse Perez.  Jesse is regarded as the LOWEST paying assignor (on average) in possibly all of Southern California.  Literally he was assigning games for $18 - $22 as recently as a year ago.   He assigns for Dino Trigonis (Pangos) when they have their camps in Southern California at such disgraceful wages, you would literally cringe.  And he utilizes mostly uncertified referees because not even the lowest-ranking high school officials would stoop so low in this modern era of inflation.

One positive thing I can say, based on personal observation and what other referees have told me about him:  Jesse is at least not a crook.  When OGP offered him the same $30 for a tournament we declined in the summer, he made sure his guys got every cent.  
He doesn't skimp off the top like someone like Cota.   The problem, however, is that he literally takes anything offered to him.  Jesse seems completely incapable of negotiation.  Hence assigning for Marty at $18 - $25, assigning for Dino at $25 - $30, and now he caught the eye of Open Gym Premier who were desperately searching for an assignor that will not fight them on anything they offer.  Forget the "Fight for 35,"   the new mantra might become "$30 Forever" under Jesse, which is exactly what OGP is hoping for.


Mark Taylor, as seen far left in the photo above, will be Open Gym Premier's main guy going forward in the G365 series.    He will be assigning all September events and is already making calls to assign Thousand Oaks in October and San Diego in December ⏤ UNDERCUTTING the rates of the locals under the instruction of Open Gym Premier.   #noconscience

Mark Taylor and Jesse Perez might as well be considered "in-house" assignors, albeit not being official OGP employees.  They will be in no position to exert authority above OGP and will have zero leverage to ever raise your rates in upcoming months.  Remember the words spoken directly from the mouth of OGP CEO, Matt Kanne.  Our Union didn't lose this account because of the quality of our referees.  We lost our job despite the quality of our referees because OGP wanted neutralize the leverage we held in collective bargaining.   OGP wants to regain total control of the tournament environment, including but not limited to:

  • being able to change the format of the games from running-clock to stop-clock whenever they deem beneficial.

  • making changes to the schedule last minute without any deadline towards when games become "guaranteed."

  • giving authority to tournament staff to unilaterally "switch" referees between games or even mid-game if a coach complains enough, especially one of their own.

  • potentially stop paying for on-site forfeits or late cancellations.

  • potentially having the authority to overturn decisions by referees, especially in regards to technical fouls and ejections.

We have historically fought to maintain our autonomy.  I say this with no express disrespect to Mark ⏤ but he is NOT a fighter for your cause; he will NOT practice independent jurisdiction, and has already proven in his first week as assignor of OGP's Strictly Hoops event that he is in the pocket of the tournament's executive staff.  Mark is the prototypical "I'm just happy to be here and thankful for the opportunity" type of employee that will kiss the ring and never rock the boat.  His prerogative is to put some money in his pocket while giving his friends ⏤ Beau, Demetrius, Kacura, etc. as many games as they please.  

Speaking of Beau Hossler, he will be backing up Mark Taylor on most of the larger events.  They've been thick as thieves since around 2017 when Mark wanted me to utilize Beau at Irvine's recreational SoCal Elite program.   After a bit of work and commitment towards getting in shape, Beau actually became a very consistent contributor to the Union for multiple years.  The irony is that I used to be very solid with both of them.  Mark Taylor even won the Ref Union (then Gray Fox) Rookie of the Year for the 2011 - 2012 season.  

Unfortunately this past summer when they both got in bed with Martin Cota, things quickly went south.   They were excommunicated for helping Martin Cota undercut our efforts to get
The Stage NCAA Viewing Tournaments to pay a $40 minimum rate.   Mark Taylor and Beau Hossler actively recruited officials knowing they would be grossly underpaid (sometimes as little as $30) in order to receive preferential treatment and bonuses.   As I always said, it is one thing to work for Cota because your mortgage depends on it, but it's a whole other thing to drag young officials into his cesspool of corruption.   
Or to put my absolute favorite analogy on it:  if you need to turn tricks because you're at a low point in life, I won't judge you.   But if you start pulling innocent kids into working the street corner with you, just to get bonuses from your pimp, then our organization will not tolerate your presence any longer.


Open Gym Premier hated our war of words with Cota, because ultimately it proved very effective in decreasing the availability of quality officials to work The Stage events, plus it got referees throughout Southern California to get riled up against the preposterous wages they were getting paid.   OGP had to find a way to dilute the influence our Union was slowly but assuredly acquiring ⏤ uniting refs under the basic fact that our rates are regressing amidst an increasingly hostile environment.   OGP doesn't want us unified and fighting for more money.  They want us split up and competing against each other for games.   Economics 101:  competition in the market breeds lower prices and three assignors competing for every subsequent month's worth of events will assure Matt Kanne that referee rates stay at or below $30 for a really long time.  

I'm not going to lie:  losing my spot as the assignor 
hurts on many levels.  There is the sting of betrayal that I feel from a client that we helped expand for the last dozen years.  OGP also represented 40% of our (and my own) total revenue per year.  I definitely have to take it easy on the fancy dinner dates over the next few months until settling into some kind of "real" job to replace the income.   However, the money is not what I'm going to miss the most.  After all, Open Gym Premier paid me less than a hot dog vendor per year with no benefits, no bonuses, and not even a Christmas party invite, for what I believed to be a job of enormous responsibility.

I did this job because it was a means to a far more rewarding end.  There is a definitive advantage in fighting for greater wages and working conditions from inside tournament operations.    Our Union was an anomaly from the regular course of business where most officials and their assignors just do as they're told from tournament clients and accept the abuse that traditionally comes with the job.   

We actually fought back!   We wouldn't let tournament staff boss us around and micromanage the way we call games.  
We held parents and coaches accountable for their toxicity.  I actually received complaints from coaches that they feared coming to the tournaments we covered because they knew they were going to get technical fouls. 


Through their fear came change.  Of course, there were still incidences.  Of course, the behavior of many parents and coaches were disheartening to continuously witness.  Nevertheless, compared to so many other events around Southern California and throughout the country, we held serve on sportsmanlike decorum, while elevating wages and providing a safe space for even novice officials to work on their craft.   As your representative/assignor at all of Open Gym Premier's tournaments, I could almost forgive the laughably low pay because it came with some immense job satisfaction.

To be sure, while being afforded this freedom and power, we also provided stellar service.  In 12 years, our coverage rate was far above 99% with certified and qualified high school and collegiate officials, while our non-U
nion competitors frequently struggled just to put bodies on the court.  It hurts not having this hard work appreciated anymore.  The Ref Union and Open Gym Premier was once a true partnership of equal give and take until OGP decided that they didn't want partners anymore.  

OGP wants subordinates.  

Open Gym Premier is monopolizing the entire basketball landscape in Southern California.  They have bought out a lot of independent tournament providers.  They are starting youth leagues around various cities ⏤ Ladera Ranch, Fullerton, Newport Beach, Yorba Linda, etc.   They bought out Hype Her Hoops (a prior independent client) in order to break into the girls basketball market.  They want to continue hosting events in Thousand Oaks and San Diego to expand their breadth, while trying to dictate wages in markets outside their own.  They are investing heavily towards acquiring NCAA College Viewing tournaments, hence why they licked the Compton Magic's boots all summer.  They have three of their own facilities ⏤ Anaheim, Ladera, and Oakland.   They are generating millions upon millions of dollars in revenue.  Everything that Matt Kanne dreamed of accomplishing when I first met him at a Starbucks by Angels Stadium in 2009 is coming to fruition.   Unfortunately with that success came a fear that the rapidly growing movement of worker unionization will eventually become a permanent drag on their bottom line.

I wish I could say that I'm proud and happy for all of Open Gym Premier's enormous expansion.  But the executives at the top clearly have no idea nor respect for the hard work, toxicity, injuries, and sacrifice that we had to go through nearly every weekend to help them reach this level.  It is unconscionable that at the pinnacle of their success, Open Gym Premier is attempting to put a lid on our wages
that haven't even kept pace with inflation since 2015.   Their Union busting represents a new low in our relationship that will inevitably continue ⏤ one way or another ⏤ either as adversaries or as partners again, the latter only possible if Open Gym
Premier comes back to the bargaining table, respects officials as an independent but essential part of their success, and starts immediately reversing the regression of our wages that they have capped in order to make themselves wealthy. 

Until they do, we strongly recommend to referees....
  DO NOT SUPPORT OPEN GYM PREMIER ...on any events unless they are assigned by Ray Charles.   He is the last semblance of independence and someone that looks out for the referees in that entire organization.


**That's what Mark and Beau will soon realize splitting that pathetic $5 per game fee between them ⏤ that holding this position is downright idiotic if you're doing it just for the money and if you have no other strong and steady source of income available.

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