Stern: NBA will never tolerate further brawls
The National Basketball Association will show zero tolerance toward any further incidents such as the one that marred the game between the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons Friday, NBA commissioner David Stern has warned.
Stern suspended Pacers All-Star Ron Artest for the rest of the season Sunday after he instigated a wild brawl in the final minute of the Pacers win by jumping into the stands and attacking fans after being hit by a cup of drink.
Artest, along with team mate Stephen Jackson, threw punches at spectators, before the referee called the game off with fans showering players with beer, ice and popcorn as they headed for the dressing room. Indiana won the game 97-82.
"Players cannot lose control and go into the stands," Stern told ESPN in a televised news conference Sunday.
"They now know. The line is drawn and they won't do it again as long as they want to be associated with our game."
Artest's suspension will total 73 games, while team mates Stephen Jackson and Jermaine O'Neal were suspended for 30 and 25 games respectively.
Detroit's Ben Wallace was suspended for six games for his part in the brawl, one of the ugliest in U.S. sports history. Indiana's Anthony Johnson also received a five-game suspension and four other players received one-game bans.
"The actions of the players involved wildly exceeded the professionalism and self-control that should fairly be expected from NBA players," Stern said in his statement.
"We must affirm that the NBA will strive to exemplify the best that can be offered by professional sports, and not allow our sport to be debased by what seem to be declining expectations for behavior of fans and athletes alike."
Stern also said the league will now focus on security issues at all arenas in the NBA to ensure there will be no repeat of Friday's melee.
"To watch the out-of-control fans in the stands, to me, was disgusting," Stern said during the ESPN news conference. "(But) it doesn't excuse what our players did in going into the stands."
Extra security was evident when the Pistons played at home against Charlotte Sunday. The number of armed police in The Palace was doubled to 20 while there was a 25 percent increase in security personnel.
When both teams returned to the court, they were escorted by police while security staff turned their backs on the game to watch the fans in the stands throughout.