Indiana Pacers officials apologized for their team's role in Friday night's game brawl between the Detroit Pistons and visiting Pacers. The battle spilled into the stands, leading to fights between players and fans and giving the National Basketball Association a black eye.
Indiana Pacers Chief Executive Donnie Walsh called the melee at the end of Friday's game "a low point for pro sports and the franchise," and apologized for his team's part in it.
The incident started on the court, when the Pacers' Ron Artest gave Ben Wallace of Detroit a hard foul. Wallace shoved Artest, who walked away and ended up lying on the scorer's table.
But things escalated when a fan tossed an ice-filled beverage out of the stands that hit Artest in the face. Artest stormed into the stands and punched the fan he thought threw the drink. Other fans grabbed Artest, and several Pacers, including Stephen Jackson and Jermaine O'Neal, rushed into the stands to help their teammate. The fight spread onto the court and before it ended nine fans had been injured.
On Sunday, NBA Commissioner David Stern suspended Artest for the rest of the season, while Jackson is out for 30 games and O'Neal for 25. Ben Wallace was suspended for six games, while five other players received lesser punishments. In an interview on NBC's "Today" show Tuesday, Artest said he thought his punishment was too severe.
"I respect David Stern's decision you know, but once again, I don't think I should have to be out for the whole season," said Mr. Artest. "I cannot even tell you a number [of games he thinks he should be suspended], you know."
While Wallace says he will not appeal his suspension, Billy Hunter, the executive director of the NBA Players' Union, said on NBC's "Today Show" he will lodge an appeal to protest the severity of Artest's punishment.
"I think that the punishment was a bit excessive," he said. "I am of the opinion that the appropriate thing to have done would have been to have suspended him through the All-Star break and require him to attend anger management and some other form of counseling."
Though none of the nine fans hurt were seriously injured, Detroit police are continuing their investigation and prosecutors say charges could still be filed. Artest said Tuesday he wishes the whole thing had never happened, but that it should not scare the fans away.
"Things happen, you move on," Artest added. "I think nobody benefited from this situation. You move on. The NBA is a great league. The fans [should] continue to go to the games and have fun and enjoy it and just enjoy the game."
After reviewing video of the incident, prosecutors believe the fan who threw the beverage at Artest is a Pistons season ticket holder named John Green. Pistons officials say Green's tickets will be revoked and he will be banned from Detroit's home stadium.