I’ve reveived lots of heated e-mails on my basketbrawl posts. Was I too harsh on David Stern? I don’t think so. Stern acted quickly and forcefully against the offending players — as he should have — but did not condemn the fans’ behavior in his prepared statement nor did he indicate his support for any sanction for the fans involved in the fracas. What message does that send? Of course it will take time to identify specific individuals, but it would have taken Stern no time to condemn assaults against players in unequivocal terms. Instead of addressing the fan misbehavior Stern talked about the need to “redefine” fans’ obligations and sanction those who violate the new standard — as if it was ever okay to storm the court or throw stuff at players. He talked about reviewing the procedures at all NBA arenas, but that hardly contemplates any action directed at the Pistons organization for failing to keep things under control.
Many have asked what Stern could have done. He could have condemned the fan bahavior is unequivocal terms. He could have called for sanctions against offending fans by the Pistons organization. He could have stated his clear support for legal action against offending fans. Stern did none of those things. He did nothing that would risk offending the NBA fan base by reminding fans that they too have responsibilities. Again, what message does that send? (The folks at ArmchairGM have an idea.)
Meanwhile, it seems that local authorities and portions of the Pistons organization are doing their jobs. Authorities have identified the man they believe initially assaulted Ron Artest (Yes, dear readers who suggested otherwise, throwing a cup of beer at someone’s head does constitute an assault, as local prosecutors noted) as well as the fan who allegedly threw a chair. (He could face a felony charge.) Pistons Tim Wilson said that offending individuals will be barred from the Palace permanently, and security has already increased. Local police also continue to gather evidence that will be turned over to prosecutors. According to news reports, legal charges will be filed — most probably against fans and players alike — in about two weeks or so. I’m waiting for Stern to make a clear public statement in support of these actions. As yet, there’s nothing of this sort on the NBA web site, nor have I seen anything equivalent in news reports.
A final note: I’ve had the privilege to sit front-row courtside at several NBA games. It is an amazing experience(even if the game today is not what it used to be). Basketball is the only professional sport left in which fans can get that close to the players. It is a privilege to have such an opportunity — and it comes with the responsibility not to act like an ass or a thug. Some Detroit Pistons fans did not get this, and they should bear the consequences — legal and otherwise.