As the NBA Players' Association considers whether to appeal the seven-game suspensions given to Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson for legal issues, the agent for Artest has stepped up support for his client.
Mark Stevens, Artest's agent, told the Sacramento Bee he will file an appeal on Artest's behalf. Stevens was reached by phone in Kenya, where he, Artest, and player association director Billy Hunter are taking part in the union's "Feeding One Million" campaign, helping distribute 11 million pounds of rice in Kenya.
In a statement released Sunday, Stevens said Artest's punishment was "overly excessive."
Both Artest and Jackson were suspended by the league Saturday without pay and are scheduled to miss the first seven games of next season. Artest would lose a little more than $470,000 in salary, about $50,000 more than Jackson.
Jackson released a statement through the Golden State Warriors saying he accepted his suspension. But the union, comparing the penalties to other recent suspensions given to players for off-the-court reasons, might take action.
"Based on prior precedent, we think the suspensions are
excessive," Hunter said Sunday in a statement. "We plan to confer with the players and their
representatives to consider all of our options for appeal."
Prior to being reached by the Sacramento paper, Stevens said in a statement: "Ron Artest's
seven-game suspension is overly excessive. But in spite of this,
Ron is relieved to have this ordeal behind him and is actively
working on strengthening his family. We trust that he will be
granted the privacy needed to do this in an effective manner.
"This decision will be brought to the players association for review and appeal."
Artest pleaded no contest in May to a misdemeanor domestic
violence charge stemming from a March 5 dispute with his wife.
Jackson pleaded guilty last month to a felony count of criminal
recklessness for firing a gun outside an Indiana strip club last
fall, when he was with the Pacers.
The seven-game bans topped the five games Ruben Patterson was
hit with in 2001 after he entered a modified guilty plea in
Washington state to third-degree attempted rape for allegedly
forcing his children's nanny to perform a sex act on him. Three
years ago, Eddie Griffin was penalized three games after pleading
guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge in Texas.
The league came down harder on Artest and Jackson, citing their
"serious offenses" and calling each "repeat violators of NBA
rules." Artest was suspended 73 games and the playoffs, and
Jackson for 30 games after both ran into the stands to fight with
fans in Detroit while playing for Indiana in 2004.
The union has 30 days from Saturday to file an appeal, which
would be heard by an arbitrator.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.