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Nov. 23, 2004

Plenty of blame to go around after basketbrawl

by Michael Bushnell, Page Editor
ESPN cancelled their boxing show Friday Night Fights, but it made a return last week in one of the ugliest incidents ever seen on this side of the Atlantic. For those living under a rock, a riot broke out at the Indiana Pacers-Detroit Pistons game in suburban Detroit on Nov. 19.

NBA commissioner David Stern went into disaster control mode after the story was the headline of the weekend, suspending Ron Artest for the whole season and eight others on both teams for their role in the debacle.

Artestís suspension seems fair; not only did he run into the crowd, breaking a cardinal rule of the NBA while showing no sense of self-control or maturity, but he actually attacked the wrong fan. Sure, the fan that threw the beer at Artest should be dealt with severely to the fullest extent of the law, but the NBA took care of who they could have and did so justly.

Stern had to set a precedent with the suspension; nothing like this had ever happened before, and as a result, Artest needed a punishment that reflected that. The NBA had to show that this was not something they would condone and they handled it well.

The only suspension I have a problem with is that of Stephen Jackson, who had no business entering the stands at the Palace of Auburn Hills in suburban Detroit. Even if Artestís excuse for running into section 119 was weak, at least he had one. Jackson went in there to throw haymakers, and cold-cocked one fan. He got just 30 games, despite the fact that what he did once in the crowd was as heinous as what Artest did.

Word is that Ron Artest isn't a bad guy; he just doesn't "get it." He made the rounds today on all the major networks, but seemed more concerned with promoting his girl group's album than talk about what happened last Friday. Essentially, he is a very strong man with emotional issues and, apparently, no sense of reasoning at all. I hope he gets some help while he's away this year.

I feel that itís now on Auburn Hills police to set an example, as well. Any fan that was involved in escalating the melee should not get any money at all in court. But you have got to believe that all those who were hurt and did nothing, will be lining their pockets, and rightfully so.

But the fault for this riot doesnít just fall on the Pacers who ran in the stands, or the horrible fans who started and escalated this fight. The cops should deal them all with very harshly. But one has to wonder, where was the security?

Pistons CEO Tom Wilson and owner Bill Davidson insist there was adequate security at the Palace, but I only saw about two guards in the fracas that involved about 50 people. They even let another melee break out where the Pacers left the court to go to the locker room. There was no control, and security has to bear a load of the blame for that.

So do the officials. Between the 94 feet of parquet where they play, the only people who can call out the cops are the three referees. They didnít do that; not after the scrum on-court, or even while the fight was ongoing. There was such little security that two fans were able to get onto the court to try and fight the Pacers. The players had to take matters into their own hands; Artest and Jermaine OíNeal decked the fans.

Suspensions are good; jail for all those involved is better, for both fans and players. But the NBA has a lot of work to do to convince skeptical fans that the league isnít full of prima donna thugs and big, muscular men with no emotional control. They did that to an extent with their brutal suspensions.

The Pistons organization should be worried too. These are their fans; how do they market to the other 29 teams that they are ďwith it,Ē and that spectators arenít going to make opposing players fear for their safety. There were no problems in last nightís great game against Charlotte, but civilized behavior needs to be a pattern so the Pistons can earn the publicís trust back.

Friday at the Palace was one of the ugliest days in the history of the league that wonít be forgotten for a while. After all, the videotape was only played about 250 bajillion times on every network this past weekend.

Fistcuffs are a horrible way to market the league, that, for 20 years at least, was regarded as the most fan friendly, for it allowed unprecedented closeness to the field (or court) of play. But after Friday, all involved need to take a long look at what went so horribly wrong and make sure it never happens again.

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  • Michael Bushnell (View Email) on November 24, 2004
    To clarify, I'm saying that Jackson's suspension, relative to Artest's, was too light.
  • 04 graduate on November 24, 2004
    good article mike
  • what the heck on November 24, 2004
    I don't see how you can judge Ron Artest's character, seeing as you don't know him. Also, the next time u get hit in the face by something intentinonally, especially after getting punched in the throat, I'd like to see how'd u react. Also, way to judge all NBA players based on the action of a few. And "fistcuffs" is spelled incorrectly. These punishments were too harsh. There is no point to them other than to say to NBA players, u can't be a normal human being and get angry or we'll throw the book at u. As for the fans, I don't know of a single one who would stop going to or watching games because of what the punishments are. There is plenty of blame to go around, but most of it falls squarely on the fans. You wanna talk self control, its a lot easier not to throw a cup at someone than it is to not overreact to getting hit in the face.
  • Michael Bushnell (View Email) on November 25, 2004
    what the heck, I wouldnt have charged over a guy and attacked the wrong guy. i dont judge all nba players; most are very nice guys, and nearly all wouldnt have done what artest did.

    your comments below that show that you didnt actually read what i said. everyone is at fault here.
  • Rondelle on November 25, 2004
    Hey Michael, I agree with you. Jackson should have got a larger suspension cuz after he went up and cold cocked a dude, more hell broke loose. you saw them other Pacers trying to pull Artest and Jackson; they were actually HELPING. i hope that dude sues the hell outa Jackson.

    And to "what the heck";

    are you familiar with Artest because he is known for being a fairly dirty player. how can you say the punishment was too harsh for him: HE ATTACKED AN INNOCENT MAN and PUNCHED THAT FAT DUDE WHEN THE FAT DUDE DIDNT EVEN HIT HIM! what is it that you dont understand?
    if he came and punched you when you didn't do jack, wouldn't you think that he needs to chill out for a season?

    some players and some fans are going to get some charges and they are going to get what they deserve. blame doesn't matter, and its not going to matter in court either so stop whinning. in the real world your actions are what matters.
  • what the heck on November 26, 2004
    i DID read your horrible article, i don't know why, they are all pretty bad. i know everyone is to blame, but u decided mainly to focus on the security when most of the blame falls on the fans.

    to Rondelle: So what if hes a dirty player? This is a specific incident and should be dealt with as such. Its stupid of u to compare some hard fouls and temper tantrums with assault. Its still too harsh because he was suspended more than Steven Jackson and he was provoked. And of course I would be pissed if he punched me, I would be biased u fool! Imagine what chaos the world would be if the victims decided the fates of the criminals. When ur pissed, do u think clearly? Artest does not need to chill for a season, he was pissed and did something stupid. Ben Wallace punched Artest in the neck and got suspended for what 5 games? He needs to chill more too. Also, do u think professional athletes live in this so-called "real world"? Dream on.

    to Bushnell again: same thing, do u think clearly when ur pissed?

    get real ppl. quit acting all high and mighty. u might have a little more self-control than the pacers. but, if someone hit you or ur friend in the face for no reason, ud get pissed and do some stuff ud regret. i would, its human nature. im not saying ron artest should get a slap on the wrist for this but other than the fan he ran into the stands and jumped, the others he attacked came at him and he has right to defend himself. there is no reason y he is missing more time than stephen jackson and ben wallace (i mean come on 5 games for punching someone in the throat).
  • Michael Bushnell (View Email) on November 26, 2004
    what the heck, if you did that, then you wouldve shown no self control and youd go to jail. so whats your point? the cup was thrown from 40 feet away. artest was not being attacked; his life was not in danger. if the guy had thrown the cup right in his face, it would be a different story. but thats not what happened.

    youre beinjg irrational. david stern has to protect his product as commissioner of the NBA. this suspension was completely necessary.
  • what the heck on November 26, 2004
    still all high and mighty, whod u think u r? when someone punches u in the face, then talk to me. ur life is not in danger, how would u react? and would u really react differently if the puncher was further away? and im irrational? what the heck was stern thinking with those suspensions? would his product be in so much danger if artest was suspended slightly less or jackson or wallace more? i would still watch bball despite how many long the suspensions are, almost everybody would.
  • Mike Bushnell on November 28, 2004
    "to Bushnell again: same thing, do u think clearly when ur pissed?"

  • luo on December 5, 2004
    Artest didn't get punched, he got shoved.
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