The National Basketball Association suspended four players indefinitely on Saturday for their roles in one of the worst-ever brawls in the league.
The Indiana Pacers' Ron Artest, Jermaine O'Neal and Stephen Jackson and Ben Wallace of the Detroit Pistons received the suspensions after an on-court fight Friday night spilled into the stands and involved fans. Pistons coach Larry Brown said he had never seen anything like it. "That was the ugliest thing I have ever seen in my life as a coach or a player. I have seen fights happen before, but you know, the players and the referees and the coaches usually handle it. But when it extends into the fans, that is pretty ugly," he said.
Several people were injured in the fight, which NBA commissioner David Stern called "shocking, repulsive and inexcusable." Stern confirmed the suspensions and added that a review of the league's "rules and procedures relating to altercations and security has been undertaken, so fans can continue to attend NBA games unthreatened by events such as the ones that occurred" Friday night.
Police launched an investigation into the incident Saturday, but did not comment on who might be charged.
The incident began when Wallace went in for a shot at the basket and was given a hard foul by Artest. A shoving match quickly developed into a fight and both teams' bench players joined in, with several players exchanging punches at courtside.
As officials struggled to control the players, one of the spectators threw a beverage at Artest, who ran into the stands and attacked the fan. Players from both teams followed - some confronting the fans, others attempting to break up the fights. Angry spectators threw a shower of debris at the Indiana players. Brown says the incident gives the entire league a black eye. "I am just embarrassed for our league and disappointed in being part of this and having young people see that. Because this is supposed to be a great game between two terrific teams, it should not have ended like that," he said.
The brawl, which started with less than one minute left, forced an early end to the game. The Pacers ended up winning 97-82.