Pacers / Pistons Game Turns into an Ugly Fight with Fans

(Here’s the video of the fight)
Or maybe I should have said “I went to an NBA game and the Vibe Awards broke out”. In case you haven’t heard / seen it by now – “Fight breaks out between fans & players at NBA game“. WTF is going on? The NBA can’t get those international players into the league fast enough. More to come after I return from my bike ride…

Update: Ok, I’m back to finish my thoughts on this…

First off, I don’t even want to get into who’s to blame for what went down. I’ve heard arguments on both sides and each has valid points. I will say that I’d bet that the fan who threw the cup at Artest would have never done that if he was on the street with Artest, or anywhere else besides the “safe” confines of the stands. He would have guaranteed himself an ass whipping. Anyway, I’m more interested in the impact on the NBA and the implications on the players. Here’s how I see it:

We already know that Larry Bird said what a lot of people won’t — people would like to see more white players / stars in the NBA. The process of bringing in international players has been well underway for years now. A big attraction to the foreign players is that they’re more ‘coachable’ (eg. controllable). The Artest incident can only exacerbate that phenomenon.

I know some people think that race doesn’t play a part in all of this but I think they’re fooling themselves. I was glad to hear Jason Whitlock and John Saunders bring up the issue of race on the ‘Sports Reporters’ this morning. Like they, and the other, white, panelists said, it’s the pink elephant in the room. I totally agree with what Whitlock says about the NBA having a credibility problem. And the players aren’t helping the situation much. Just a few recent examples:

  • Latrell Sprewell complaining about a $10,000,000 offer, to which he said that he couldn’t feed his family on that kind of money. Ha!
  • Ron Artest showing just how unstable he is by asking for a month off from playing basketball so that he could promote his upcoming CD.
  • Various clowns getting arrested on drug or weapons charges.
  • Kobe Bryant’s rape case. Let’s not forget that a white woman was involved.

It seems clear to me that many players have attitude problems and/or don’t appreciate the incredible amounts of money they make. Well, there are plenty of poor foreigners just itching to take their salaries. We saw a good example of that on Battlegrounds: King of the World this season. That brother from France was much hungrier than the American players and it showed as he crushed them. Bruhs had better get their minds right and step their games up.

And while I’m on the subjects of sports, race and general ignorance, this Terrell Owens/Nicollette Sheridan/Desperate Housewives story is just ridiculous. I can see the point of parents who were concerned about their kids seeing such a provocative scene when they were expecting to just see some football. But what really gets me is how, if that scene was so shocking, all of the news and talk shows play the spot over and over again at all hours of the day. If it was so bad should they be airing it? Should the FCC fine all the other shows which have rebroadcast it? What a joke this whole thing is. And of course the same pink elephant (race) is in the room. But let’s not even go there…


  1. …and just when I thought things couldn’t get any crazier. I’m a little scared of what’s gonna show up next in the news.

  2. Good post bruh! While I lament the fact that this incident (and the one at the Vibe awards) reinforces yet another negative stereotype of Black males, I fully understand the forces that contributed to it and can honestly say it was only a matter of time. If you mix adrenaline (on the court AND in the stands), alcohol, class and race issues and the ridiculous proximity of the fans to the players, this incident HAD to happen. It simply is not as black and white (no pun intended) as most of the talking heads try to portray it. As we discussed on the bike ride, the players have to roll with a certain amount of personal verbal attacks but there is a line that must be maintained. Just because you are millionaire, you do not have to submit yourself to disrespect. I think Artest is crazy, but I would have done the EXACT same thing he did under the circumstances. I cannot bring myself to condemn him for his actions “this time”. You do not touch me or throw anything at me under any circumstances! I would also challenge the public to use the same lens on hockey (if it ever comes back) that they do on basketball or football; sports dominated by brothers. Or to run a series of stories condemning racism and violence against Black soccer players in Europe. I recall more than a few fan-related hockey incidents that didn’t get nearly enough coverage. As for MNF, again the NFL and the general American public continues to demonstrate its hypocrisy. After all, that skit was quite tame by current American television standards. And what about showing the cheerleaders every few minutes during the game? Isn’t that bad for impressionable children as well? Or perhaps the erectile dysfunction ads shown during the games or even the beer commercials (with or without “The Twins”). What about the racy commercials for “Desperate Housewives”? Bruh, the hypocrisy in this land is so blatant it’s sickening. And, of course, the issue is bigger than ungrateful pro athletes who wild out and who command obscene salaries. These super-rich, super-spoiled athletes are monsters that capitalism created. As are the blue collar fans who can barely afford to attend the games, and who admire the skill of the players while resenting the hell out the fact that they make so much money. The civil litigation we are bound to see is also part and parcel of capitalism. As long as “we” continue to champion that system without honest criticism, we must also embrace the negative by-products. In any event, while Black men must always be cognizant of the images we portray, it remains patently unfair for us to be judged by standards no one else is subjected to. If Artest were white and the offending fan(s) Black, I believe the public outcry would have been much different (either more restrained or nonexistent). By the way, Whitlock is a buster…and I applaud Bird for his honesty.

  3. I totally agree Jef. Oh, I forget to mention the lack of support for the US Olympic Basketball team. Yet another example of a disconnect between the NBA players & the gen. pop.

  4. Looks like another reporter is on the right track:

    A disconnect between NBA players and fans
    By STEVE WILSTEIN, AP Sports Columnist
    November 22, 2004

    The NBA’s problems cut deeper than image, go further than the fighting in Detroit, and can’t be solved simply by suspensions.

    Commissioner David Stern made a start by swiftly dishing out strong punishment to all the players involved in the worst brawl with fans in league history.

    Those suspensions were right on target, even if the players’ association and Indiana Pacers disagree and succeed in shortening them.

    It would be easy to dismiss this incident as an aberration, to point to the thousands of other games that have been played without similar problems. But to do that would be to ignore the steady ratcheting up of player-fan hostility in all sports and the underlying issues that are particular to the NBA.

    The NBA can trot out figures that would dispute any notion of its decline: solid attendance, steady TV ratings, lucrative sponsorships and advertising deals, strong licensing revenues, broader interest worldwide.

    Yet it would be a mistake for Stern to take smug satisfaction in that and try to patch over the current flare-up with the suspensions and some beefed-up security.

    There is a growing disconnect between many fans and the NBA, whose American players, perhaps more than those in any other sport, are perceived as arrogant, selfish and overpaid. Those images were reinforced this summer by the U.S. team at the Athens Olympics.

    Though there are surely many players, perhaps the majority, who don’t fit that characterization, the attention drawn by the likes of Latrell Sprewell, Allen Iverson, Ron Artest and, during the past year, Kobe Bryant, have weighed heavily on the league.

    The subject no one wants to talk about, the one that makes everyone edgy, is race and its relevance to the NBA’s problem.

    In the past decade, the NBA has fallen sharply in popularity among white fans and surged among black fans, according to research by the Sports Marketing Group in Atlanta.

    In a nationwide study of Americans in 1993, 62 percent of whites said they loved or liked the NBA. By 2003, that dropped to 50 percent. Viewed a different way, whites who said they hated or disliked the NBA rose from 21 percent in 1993 to 30 percent in 2003.

    By contrast, the percentage of black Americans who loved or liked the NBA rose from 62 percent in 1993 to 92 percent a decade later. Blacks who hated or disliked the league hardly changed, going from 4.3 percent to 2.9 percent.

    The NBA should study those figures without drawing the wrong conclusions. They don’t suggest any resentment by whites against the league simply because the majority of players are black. Nor do they suggest that the league would have fewer problems if more players were white.

    Larry Bird took some heat last season when he said that a few more white superstars would be “good for a fan base because … the majority of the fans are white America.” He was probably right, though Stern disagreed.

    In 1993, the NBA was coming off the success of the original Dream Team at the Barcelona Olympics. Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan were as popular among whites as blacks. Charles Barkley, for all the controversy he stirred and the elbows he threw, was a likable player with a sense of humor. Race wasn’t a big issue then.

    What the numbers suggest is that many white fans have been turned off by some high-profile players. There’s a sense that too many are jumping straight from high school, tattooed and bejeweled, and that they have an attitude of entitlement along with huge egos. As salaries, ticket prices and cable/satellite charges rise, the resentment is growing.

    That, in part, is why so many Americans were glad to see the U.S. basketball team get its comeuppance in Athens. It is also, in part, what drives fans to scream epithets at players at games.

    When players break the rules or the law, fans react with repugnance. When Sprewell chokes a coach or complains that he needs more millions to feed his family, he doesn’t just turn off fans, he infuriates them. When Artest and the other Pacers went into the stands throwing punches wildly, no matter the provocation from a few idiotic fans, they reinforce a sense of players out of control.

    Stern needs to make all the players understand what’s at stake — the league’s integrity. The issue now is no less critical to the NBA than the cocaine problems of the 1980s.

    If NBA teams can’t restrain themselves from drafting players out of high school, they should at least make an effort to give them extra counseling and encourage them to continue their education in the offseason.

    The NBA also ought to consider changing the way it plays the game by adopting international rules. That alone would encourage more of a team game, improve outside shooting skills, cut down on endless dunks, and help U.S. players compete better in the Olympics.

    Stern can’t afford to ignore any idea that will take the NBA off its self-destructive path.

    Steve Wilstein is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at swilstein(at)

  5. I think everyone has made excellent points regarding the Artest situation. I’d like to get to the heart of the problem and the resentment that is very apparent with the NBA.
    – Race – It’s the center every problem or so it seems. But, it’s only part of the problem. Combine race with..
    – Age – And now we are getting somewhere. When the avg american family is suffering through the toughest times in their lives it’s not comforting to watch teenage kids jump to the NBA and make millions of dollars based on their “potential”. Combine the race and age with…
    – Education/Attitude – and it’s the perfect mix to make the young, black, poorly educated (in most cases) athlete an easy target for hate. Not to mention the attitudes of the young athlete. Obviously, it’s not all their fault. We have created this monster by making them above human and immune to personal responsibility.

    One solution that will never happen is a graduated pay scale based on experience of the player. I definitely believe the influx of younger players has made the NBA less marketable and more immature in skills and character than ever before.
    Pay Scale
    High School Grad – Sophmore in College
    $300,000 per year for 3 years.
    Junior in College
    $1 million per year for 3 years
    Senior in College
    Full Rookie payscale.

    I’m sure many will have issues with this and point out the obvious point that the owners will profit greatly and so on. That aside, if a high school kid is really pursuing their lifelong dream and money isn’t factor, let’s devalue their worth until they prove themselves. Only a few of the high schoolers are capable of having an immediate impact. The others take 3 – 4 years to develop and that’s no guarantee. (See Tyson Chandler, Eddy Curry, Jonathan Bender, DeSangna Diop and so on)

    My last point about Artest entering the stands. The fan was wrong, but Artest was flat wrong for entering the stands. He had no idea who did it. I can honestly say I would not have done what Artest did. Having played basketball in college I was put in somewhat of a similar situation and I easily walked away. After several comments back and forth between myself and fans (I was torching their team I might add) I had a break away dunk and a fan ran onto the court and pushed me. I laughed it off and let the refs and security grab him. Obviously, a push is different from a punch, but he did cross the line.


  6. i think that the crowd was the problem. because they started throwing stuff at the players. and the players got mad. and they have the right to get mad and i would of done the same. how do you think that will affect the NBA.

    nathan flanigan

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