November 22, 2004
Ron Artest's suspension
Ron Artest has been suspended for the rest of the NBA season for his role in the arena melee from the weekend.
Indiana Pacers forward Ron Artest, who led the charge into the stands and sparked a near riot at the end of the game against the Detroit Pistons on Friday at The Palace of Auburn Hills, Mich., was suspended for the remainder of the season without pay. He is the first player ever suspended for almost an entire season for fighting during a game.
Nine players in all were suspended for a combined total of 143 games.
I have no quarrel with the suspensions that Stern handed out. I'm not going to claim that had I been in Ron Artest's place I'd have been able to react rationally after being hit in the face by a cup of beer, but the league cannot tolerate players charging into the stands any more than it could tolerate fans storming the court. Stern's response was harsh but fair.
That said, if equally harsh sanctions are not levied on the morons in the stands who helped precipitate this travesty, then Ron Artest got screwed and ought to consider a lawsuit himself. I totally agree with Eric McErlain here:
Here's hoping the Pistons work with the police to identify any fan who was involved last night, and ban them from the Palace for life.
In addition, the NBA needs to take a cue from the NFL, and revoke the season tickets of any fan who provided tickets to anybody who was involved in the brawl last night. That's the course the New York Giants took after the infamous "Snowball Game" at Giants Stadium back in 1995 where one San Diego Chargers assistant wound up being sent to the hospital.
Damn straight. Any fan who can be shown to have thrown something should never be allowed to set foot in the arena again. If I were a Pistons season ticket holder, I'd be demanding a refund if that didn't happen. I'd also want to know why there wasn't more security around the players' benches.
Finally, I heard some commentator on NPR this morning who put some blame on "antagonistic" attitudes in stadia towards opposing teams. He said that the way player intros are done nowadays demonizes opponents, and that there used to be more "respect" in the older days. I have to say, that's a load of crap. Ugly confrontations between players and fans are a part of our history, from the ancient days of Ty Cobb to the days of my youth to now. Sports is an aggressive, confrontational business, and this sort of thing is bound to happen now and then. The best we can do is be prepared for it, by having the resources on hand to deal with it, and by making the price for causing the problem to be steep enough to deter most people from succumbing to the temptation. The NBA has done its part; now it's up to the Pistons and the local DA's office to do theirs.
UPDATE: Tom Kirkendall remembers an incident from the 1970s at the venue formerly known as The Summit.
Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 22, 2004 to Other sports
Vernon "Mad Max" Maxwell was lucky to exist in the time that he did; had he pulled his shenanigans in 2004, David Stern might very well have personally shot him in the kneecap.
The hyperventilated chatterati's take on the subject, of course, can be summed up in the immortal words of of Kent Brockman: "Ladies and gentlemen, I've been to Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and I can say without hyperbole that this is a million times worse than all of them put together."
Needless to say, this has been the "water-cooler" conversation of the day at my office. I actually went to the Pistons web site to find out what people pay to sit in those seats ($105 a game). Add the cost of a beer ($5-6) and one might think they're entitled to throw something at a player.
They would be absolutely wrong.
No one has the right to throw coins, bottles, chairs, mopeds or anything else on to a playing field (the moped incident occurred at a soccer match in Milan, Italy last year). The players, however, do not have a right to go into the stands to confront the fans. The suspensions were perfectly justified and will hopefully send a message to the league.
The fan that went onto the court to confront Ron Artest, however, was asking to be punched out. Had Jermaine O'Neal not slipped, however, it would have been an uglier scene than the Kermit Washington - Rudy Tomjonovich incident.
It should be easy to identify the fans that throw stuff at the players, since ESPN was covering the game. They should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I also like the idea of any future incidents by any team's fans resulting in the team having to play in an empty arena. It works in European soccer, and I see no reason that it wouldn't work here.
Live by the thug, die by the thug
BTW, Though they are both bowl eligible, South Carolina and Clemson announced that as a result of the brawl late in their game, they will not accept bowl invitations.
Sorta on-topic: I hear what Kuff's saying about confrontations between fans and athletes, but it seems to me that another aspect of sports-related violence, the post-game riot, has become way more prevalent than in the past. Here in MN, riots during NCAA Men's Hockey tournaments have become an annual event. Plus the World Series fights, brawls after the NBA championship games... where in hell did all this come from? Sure seems that I didn't hear about it as frequently five, six years ago. (And I'm only talking US, here - I'm well aware of Europe's (esp. GB) hallowed tradition of hooliganism.)
I killed a frog once with toenail clippers but that doesn't make me a bad guy now does it?