It took just 11 hours for my column concerning Friday's brawl at the Palace of Auburn Hills to generate more than 2,000 individual emails – a new record. The entire incident brought in more than 3,000 responses.
I estimate that opposition to my columns ran 60-40, but I still contend Artest had no right to go into the stands and start jumping random, innocent fans.
But this space is for your opinions (with my responses in italics). So without further ado, on to The People's Voice…
THE ACT ("There's no excuse" November 19, 2004)
I don't know what fairytale land you're from, but when a guy throws a beer at you wherever you may be – work, school, church, anywhere – that means they want to fight.
Ron Artest maybe got the wrong guy, but it didn't seem like any fans around there were welcoming him. The fans are the ones to blame here after all the things they threw at the players.
San Jose, Ca.
Maybe he got the wrong guy? And that is acceptable?
Look, until people understand that "the fans" are not a legitimate legal term then we get nowhere.
There is no such thing as "fans" in the plural. There are 20,000 individual, singular fans, each responsible for their own actions. In the same vein there is no such thing as "the Pacers," just individual athletes.
If one fan misbehaves, that doesn't mean every fan should be held accountable for the transgression. But that was Artest's logic. Someone threw a cup at him so he figured someone, anyone deserved to get beat up.
This would be no different than David Stern suspending Scot Pollard for what Artest did, or the cops arresting you for something your neighbor did. It doesn't stand up to logic.
There is no reasonable, mature argument defending Artest's action. It was irrational and illegal.
It's about time someone spoke with some common sense regarding a professional athlete's responsibilities for appropriate behavior even when fans act crazily.
Imagine if Jackie Robinson had responded the way today's pampered "pros" do when he made history in 1947? It's an embarrassment for the NBA, professional sports, and all of America as the world watches how these few athletes make a bad name for us all.
While I understand why you say that [Artest] should never have gone into the stands, he is only human. I'd like to believe that I'd have just walked off but, realistically speaking, I would've reacted the exact same way, and I am sure you would've too.
Also, I am sure that once the entire investigation has been completed, these "let me get punched and get a million dollars" fans won't be happy with the outcome of their lawsuits.
I have no sympathy for the guys who ran on the court or the guy in the white hat who threw the cup (and punches). As I originally stated, they should be arrested. But legally, I suspect that the guy in the black shirt can get deep into Artest's wallet if he so chooses.
I think it is absurd that the players were allowed to come back to Indy and [weren't] thrown in jail like any of us would have been. Money shouldn't sway the laws of our land.
How much abuse are players supposed to take? … Also where is the security? I don't care how much a patron pays for a seat – they should not be able to treat the talent like that.
Los Angeles, Calif.
I'm a huge Pacer fan, and at first I thought Artest and the Pacers were victimized. After reading your column however, I realize that the players have a responsibility to the league to refrain from entering the stands no matter what.
The players' obscene salaries are basically paid by sports fans. They must take what comes with the territory. For a fraction of what an average NBA player gets paid, I'd let the fans throw beer at me the whole game.
I could not help noticing you failed to mention Ben Wallace. Shame on Detroit and you for a one-sided opinion!
The reason I focused on Artest is that what Wallace did is a relatively common act in the NBA.
Glad you got it right! It was extremely frustrating watching "SportsCenter" earlier today; they seemed to blame the fans more than Artest. The melee only erupted because Artest charged wildly into the stands.
In addition, look closely at the replay it was not a glass of beer (as widely reported); it was soda pop. You can see the ice cubes come rolling out. It does not make a significant difference, but when reporting the story it does seem to make it more of a fan "alcoholic rage" by calling it beer.
I got the contents of the thrown cup wrong also. I have no idea if any of the fans were drunk or not. I think all of us who spend a lot of time at sporting events are so accustomed to belligerent, violent drunks that we just assumed. That was wrong.
As for ESPN, its post-fight analysis was amateur. You know ex-players are always going to defend current players. But John Saunders just blew it. And I was let down by Stephen A. Smith. I thought he'd be a voice of reason (although he came around later).
It didn't seem like anyone at the network wanted to take the time to actually look at the tape and realize, quite easily, that Artest was attacking an innocent fan, which to me changes everything. I was hoping someone would break out the telestrator so we could look frame-by-frame at what was in the cup, who threw it, who was punching whom and so on. Instead we got a bunch of hysterical, knee-jerk pontifications. It was weak stuff.
An interesting note: Joe Dumars told The Detroit Newsthat "the NBA read ESPN the riot act over its coverage." I don't know whether that is true, but the network's opinion on the incident did do a 180.
You tell me what you would do if some one threw the beer on you? Turn your head? I don't think so.
Let's ask that a different way. If I am at a game and I react as Artest did, what would happen to me? I'd be arrested and then fired.
You totally missed the mark, knucklehead.
Los Angeles, Calif.
Thanks for hitting the mark on this one.
Your opinion is 100 percent wrong.
Ft. Wayne, Ind.
I agree 100 percent with your comments and observations.
The fans who were throwing things on the court should be given something like a traffic ticket at the very least. The arena needs to take some responsibility also. If the fans who were throwing things were drunk then it's the arena's responsibility for serving too much beer. We can't tolerate this kind of behavior from anyone, fans or players.
I agree. Here are a couple of solutions.
1) The Pistons should revoke offending fans' season tickets. If you sell or give away your tickets, you're responsible for the misbehaving ticket holder. This makes people reconsider who they are giving tickets too. The New England Patriots already have this policy.
2) Outrageous fan behavior should result in arrests and prosecution. Players deserve better, and fellow fans have the right to watch games in peace.
3) This will never happen, but teams that are truly interested in stopping unruly behavior should stop selling alcohol in their stadiums. A place like the Palace of Auburn Hills is, in effect, the largest bar in Detroit on game night. Most college stadiums are alcohol-free, and even with a younger crowd and incredible pregame consumption those venues are more peaceful than professional ones.
4) Teams need to stop marketing home court/field advantages. Calling places the Black Hole, the Pit or whatever riles up the fans. P.A. announcers and pregame shows are designed to hype up the atmosphere. Telling fans that their job (as "sixth man") is to make the environment as hostile as possible encourages what happened Friday. The fans are not part of the game. But we keep telling them they are.
Did you ever think that maybe this incident occurred because the Pacers were playing in one of the dirtiest cities in the United States?
Auburn Hills, Mich., where the game took place, is a wealthy, leafy and a quite clean suburb. Misbehaving fans cross all socioeconomic lines.
PENALTIES ("Hit where it hurts" November 21, 2004)
I am not a Ron Artest fan, but a guy interested in some sense of fairness. Twenty games and a $500K fine is harsh enough. Some blame has to be placed on the home team for [not] supplying a safe place to play.
All NBA teams need to ensure that what happened after Artest went into the stands – fans down on the court, a slow reaction to the fight – never happens again. However, I don't think there is a level of security that can prevent one cup from being thrown.
That said, people crying for fairness are missing a point. The NBA is not about fairness; it is about business. That's it. David Stern knows that scenes like Friday night scare potential customers.
Artest threatened the bottom line. Stern had to act to reassure customers. Had he given Artest a slap on the wrist, would fans feel confident bringing their wife, girlfriend, mother, children, to the game?
Your article was right on. Maybe now organizations will think twice about signing problem players. Why do they do it? How does a guy like Artest make it through the system? Hopefully the days of looking the other way have come to an end and today's players will be held to the same standards as everyone else.
New Port Richey, Fla.
I think the NBA wasn't harsh enough on the players. They are supposed to be professionals. … I work in a hospital, and if a drunk comes in and punches me or does something else to me and I retaliate I wouldn't be suspended. I would be fired, my license taken away from me, and I wouldn't be able to work in my profession again. As I see it, this should be done to every one of the players who were involved in the fight.
I'm from the D and was wondering: Why didn't the Pacers go after Big Ben the same way they went after the fan wearing glasses and holding his drink?
Fight Ben Wallace? Ron Artest may have done a stupid thing, but that doesn't mean he is stupid.