NEW YORK -- Ron Artest was suspended for the rest of the
season Sunday, and two of his Indiana Pacers teammates must miss a
total of 55 games for fighting with fans during a melee that broke
out at the end of a game against the Detroit Pistons.
Overall, the NBA issued some of the harshest penalties in its
history by banning nine players for more than 140 games. Artest's
suspension is the strongest ever levied for a fight during a game.
"The line is drawn, and my guess is that won't happen again --
certainly not by anybody who wants to be associated with our
league," commissioner David Stern said.
Indiana's Stephen Jackson was suspended for 30 games and
Jermaine O'Neal for 25. Detroit's Ben Wallace -- whose shove of
Artest after a foul led to the five-minute fracas -- drew a six-game
ban, while Pacers guard Anthony Johnson got five games.
"I'm sick about that for Indiana. I'm devastated for them,"
Pistons coach Larry Brown said. "And we lost our heart and soul."
Four players -- Indiana's Reggie Miller, and Detroit's
Chauncey Billups, Elden Campbell and Derrick Coleman -- were suspended one
game apiece for leaving the bench during the initial fracas.
All of the suspensions are without pay. Artest will lose
approximately $5 million in salary, while O'Neal's suspension will
cost him nearly 25 percent of his $14.8 million salary for the
Players union director Billy Hunter, calling the penalties
excessive, said an appeal would be filed Monday. The union, sources told ESPN.com's Marc Stein, can expedite an arbitration hearing three times during any given season and will request a hearing on behalf of the three Pacers as soon as possible.
"We have to make the point that there are boundaries in our
games," Stern said. "One of our boundaries, that have always been
immutable, is the boundary that separate the fans from the court.
Players cannot lose control and move into the stands."
Artest, O'Neal and Jackson began serving their suspensions
Artest's penalty was the most severe because of his checkered
history. Artest being provoked into running into the stands by a
fan who threw a drink did not appear to be a mitigating factor in
"I respect David Stern, but I don't think that he has been fair with me in this situation," Artest said in a statement released by the players union in which he also expressed his regrets.
"The NBA has singled out Jermaine O'Neal in an arbitrary and
capricious way," agent Arn Tellem said, faulting the NBA for not
considering the players' fear for their own safety.
Pacers co-owner Herb Simon issued a statement saying "We
believe that there was a rush to judgment and not enough
opportunity for all sides to be heard. We will vigorously support
our players in any available appeal process.
All appeals of disciplinary penalties for on-court disturbances
are heard by Stern, making it highly unlikely any of the
suspensions will be reduced.
"It was unanimous, one to nothing," Stern said. "I did not
strike from my mind the fact that Ron Artest had been suspended on
previous conditions for loss of self-control."
The Pacers will be able to place Artest, O'Neal and Jackson on
the suspended list and sign players to take their place. Limited to
just six players Saturday, Indiana dropped an 86-83 decision to
Billups, Coleman and Campbell served their suspensions Sunday.
Wallace will be eligible to return Dec. 3 against San Antonio.
Stern took the unusual step of calling a news conference at
Madison Square Garden before the Knicks-Cavaliers game to
announce the suspensions, commenting that Friday night's fracas
represented "the worst" of the 20,000 to 25,000 games he has
presided over in his more than two decades as commissioner.
"To watch the out-of-control fans in the stands was disgusting,
but it doesn't excuse our players going into the stands," Stern
said, promising a wide-ranging review that will encompass
everything from security procedures to alcohol sales at arenas.
"We have to do everything possible to redefine the covenant
between players and fans, and between fans and fans, and make sure
we can play our games in very welcoming and peaceful settings," he
The NBA also has to "redefine the bounds of acceptable conduct
for fans attending our games and resolve to permanently exclude
those who overstep those bounds," Stern said.
For Sunday night's home game against the Charlotte Bobcats --
Detroit's first outing since the melee -- the Pistons doubled the
number of armed police to about 20 in the arena and increased other
arena security personnel by about 25 percent.
When some spectators lined up to take pictures with Pistons
guard Lindsey Hunter on the court before the game, two police
officers stood just a few feet away.
Friday night's brawl was particularly violent, with Artest and
Jackson bolting into the stands near center court and throwing
punches at fans after debris was tossed at the players.
Later, fans who came onto the court were punched in the face by
Artest and O'Neal. Players who entered the stands and tried to act
as peacemakers were not penalized.
Nine people were treated for injuries, and police are
investigating possible criminal charges.
Wallace began the fracas by delivering a hard, two-handed shove
to Artest after Wallace was fouled on a drive to the basket with
45.9 seconds remaining. After the fight ended, the referees called
off the rest of the game.
The initial skirmish wasn't all that bad, with Artest retreating
to the scorer's table and lying atop it after Wallace sent him
reeling backward. But when a fan tossed a cup at Artest, he stormed
into the stands, throwing punches as he climbed over seats.
Nine people were treated for injuries, and police are
investigating possible criminal charges. Oakland County (Mich.)
Prosecutor David Gorcyca said authorities talked to a man by
telephone who acknowledged he was the fan seen throwing a cup. The
man failed to show up for an in-person interview, but police said
Monday that they expect to talk to him once he has an attorney
"He, I think, precipitated the whole event that transpired in
the spectator section," Gorcyca told WXYZ-TV. "I think he's going
to be facing some criminal charges."
Jackson joined Artest and threw punches at fans, who punched
back. At one point, a chair was tossed into the fray.
"Mr. Jackson was well into the stands, and certainly anyone who
watched any television this weekend understood he wasn't going in
as a peacemaker," Stern said. "Jermaine, I think it's fair to
say, exceeded any bounds of peacemaking with the altercation with
the fan in which he was involved.
"His penalty actually would have been harsher if he had
succeeded in getting into his stands, which he tried to do but was
The most recent example of an NBA player going into the stands
and punching a fan came in February 1995, when Vernon Maxwell of
the Houston Rockets pummeled a spectator in Portland. The league
suspended him for 10 games and fined him $20,000.
Among the harshest non-drug-related penalties in NBA history was
a one-year suspension of Latrell Sprewell -- later reduced to 68
games -- for choking Golden State Warriors coach P.J. Carlesimo at
Kermit Washington of the Los Angeles Lakers drew a 60-day
(26-game) suspension in 1977 for a punch that broke the jaw of the
Houston Rockets' Rudy Tomjanovich during a game, while Dennis
Rodman was suspended 11 games for kicking a courtside cameraman in
the groin and six games for head-butting a referee.
Artest was benched for two games this month for asking Pacers
coach Rick Carlisle for time off because of a busy schedule that
included promoting a rap album.
Artest was suspended twice by the NBA last season, once for
leaving the bench during a fracas at a Pacers-Celtics playoff game;
the other for elbowing Portland's Derek Anderson. During the
2002-03 season, Artest was suspended five times by the NBA and once
by the Pacers for a total of 12 games.
Artest also once grabbed a television camera and smashed it to
the ground after a loss to the Knicks two years ago.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.