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Can NBA Control Behavior of Both Players and Fans?


TV news report transcript

Some Americans may be asking themselves, whatever happened to the concept of sportsman-like behavior? That tradition took a beating, literally, this past week during a professional basketball game in Detroit, Michigan. The incident has been called one of the most vicious in American sports history.

The national basketball association suspended the player at the center of the brawl. He’s out for the rest of the season. Police say players and fans may also face criminal charges. VOA’s Brain Purchia looks at the game that put the spotlight on sports violence.

ANNOUNCER 1
"Fans and players are going at it, the players are trying to help each other out."

ANNOUNCER 2
"This is a disgrace."

Fight night in Detroit started when the Indiana Pacers' Ron Artest fouled the Detroit Piston's Ben Wallace.. Wallace shoved Artest. Then a fan threw an ice-filled beverage - that hit Artest in the face.

ANNOUNCER
"Now another fight is breaking out, in front of the Piston's bench. It's a fan on the court, this is very dangerous."

When the brawl was over nine fans had been injured and the National Basketball Association's reputation had been damaged. Pacers Head Coach, Rick Carlisle:

RICK CARLISLE, PACERS HEAD COACH
"I've been around 20 years and I've never seen or been involved with anything like it."

N.B.A. Commissioner David Stern suspended one player for 30 games, another for 25, and Artest for more than 70.

DAVID STERN, NBA COMMISSIONER
"Indiana's Ron Artest has been suspended for the remainder of the season."

It's not the first time the talented Artest has been in the spotlight -- for the wrong reasons. Earlier this season he asked for time off from the team to promote his rap record. Now he could be facing criminal charges.

DR. PAUL STEINBERG, SPORTS PSYCHOLOGIST
"There's always a bad apple that can set things off, and that seems to be the case with Ron Artest."

Paul Steinberg has been working with athletes for more than 25 years as a sports psychologist.

DR. PAUL STEINBERG, SPORTS PSYCHOLOGIST
"You would hope somebody like Ron Artest on his own can say I've got some problems here... I'm not just selling some rap records now... I've got some time over the next eight to twelve months let me see what all this rage is about."

But, basketball player Maurice Taylor says part of the problem is the N.B.A. -- fans are too close to the action.

MAURICE TAYLOR, NBA PLAYER, HOUSTON ROCKETS
"Not that close in football. So we're probably the only sport where a fan could actually get up close and touch you if he wanted to."

FAN TAUNTING
"Little Donnie you're going to sleep like a baby after this game, you're going to wake up every two hours and cry."

Josh Elliot of Sports Illustrated says American fans and players are going to continue to have altercations unless changes are made.

JOSH ELLIOTT, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED
"Here in America we are... we have our heads in the sand, when it comes to the state of fandom. If you look at Europe, South America or Asia, there fans are watching their games in arenas and stadiums behind barricades, behind nets watched by police in full riot gear."

That's because some of the scariest sporting scenes ever witnessed have taken place outside the United States. Eric Cantona, a french-born soccer star, leapt into the crowd in 1995 when he thought he heard a racial slur -- cleating a man in the chest. Monica Seles was stabbed by a crazed fan, and numerous other fans have died in riots at soccer games or other sporting events.

Commissioner Stern says changes are going to be made to the N.B.A., to control behavior of both players and fans.

DAVID STERN, NBA COMMISSIONER
"Participants in and around the court must be assured complete protection from unacceptable fan behavior."

MARGARET NEWTON, FAN
"I kind of hate to see it change. I mean, something's got to be done for security or something, but I really don't want a barrier."

Dr. Steinberg says it may be difficult to ever stop violence at sporting events.

DR. PAUL STEINBERG, SPORTS PSYCHOLOGIST
"People get caught up in their so-called nationalistic spirit for their home team, but alcohol really fuels a lot of this reaction in the stands."

Prohibiting alcohol sales at sporting events mid-way through games, for example, could help, but, as sports psychologist Steinberg says -- it's an international problem, with no clear answer.

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