Taking A Stand

Monday, November 22, 2004

Posted by J. J. Jackson @ 8:13 AM


The NBA has handed down their punishment for Ron Artest who rushed into the stands and assaulted fans. The punishment is the rest of the year off without pay. And I say good for the NBA. Good for the NBA for finally taking a stand and good for Commissioner David Stern for showing a real set of balls standing up to the spoiled players and their union which is now crying foul and trying to blame everyone but Mr. Artest for Mr. Artest’s actions.

Games are emotional things; win or lose. Even people that play a game for a living get emotional. But when you are paid millions of dollars to play said game you are now a professional and expected to act with some degree of professionalism. Now, I don’t mind fist pumping. I don't mind jawing about how you just schooled your opponent on the way to the hoop because hey, competition is an emotional thing. I don't mind athletes showing passion about what they accomplish. It is one thing to be passionate but when fists start flying that is another story. When you cross the line into committing a criminal offense like assault or battery you are no longer even remotely acting professionally. You are, at that point, a criminal.

Competition is fine. Emotions are fine. Passion is fine. Not being able to control those emotions or passions is not fine. One player out for the season, several others suspended for various other lengths of time is probably about the best we can expect from a league that has over the years allowed more and more unprofessional behavior on and off the court. The days of Jordan and Bird are a distant memory. Today, players like Ron Artest rule the league. And if I were the commissioner of the NBA, suspension would not have been the punishment I would have handed down. I would have expelled and banned him permanently from the league making Mr. Artest free to show us his other talents and get a 9 to 5 job. Perhaps he could hit the lecture circuit talking about how the man is keeping him down?

But no. Instead, Mr. Artest, the player's union, other players and loyal fans are out there begging and pleading for us to show understanding and compassion. We hear people throwing blame all around trying to justify the acts that have been done.

Sure a fan threw a beer from the stands. And that is assault. And the fan the threw the beer is not without fault. And sure I would be mad if someone threw a beer on me too. But to take that anger and to go charging into the stands in search of that fan and start throwing punches indiscriminately is certainly NOT the way any professional should react. Especially not one being paid millions of dollars to play a game.

If a judge leapt from the bench and began throwing punches after being heckled from the gallery when a verdict was reached that someone did not like, I hope that we would call for his removal. If a bus driver got up from his seat and started throwing punches at a heckler sitting in the back, I hope that we would call for him being fired. If a Senator rushed a colleague after being criticized from the floor of the Senate and started wailing on him, I hope that we would call for his removal as well.

But when it happens in professional sports we are stuck with trying to justify not being too hard on a self important, multi-millionaire player that begins to assault fans. Well, after all, without “our” players “our” team wouldn’t be a good. So how dare the NBA punish players for misconduct because … well … um … the team will suffer. Yeah, that’s it; the game is more important than being professional. Winning is more important than anything right?

Wrong.

The message must be that celebrating accomplishments on the court is fine. Even taunting the opponent is fine. Acting like a thug is not. Bringing the American gang culture from the streets to the professional arena is not to be tolerated. The sports arena is simply a microcosm of American society and the activities that we have allowed to run rampant and out of control in our culture for several decades.

The only way this activity will stop is when players see their livelihood stripped away from their fellow “professionals” that act like animals on and off the court, field, rink or diamond. When the easy millions they are paid for playing a game is no longer there, only then will we see the end to the behavioral problems being exhibited. Only when they are forced to earn a living by either cutting a rap album or more likely dawning the head gear of a drive thru technician and asking people if they would “like fries with that” will the idiocy stop.


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