Indiana Pacers forward Ron Artest was suspended by Commissioner David Stern for the remainder of the National Basketball Association season after sparking a violent brawl with fans on Friday’s game against the Detroit Pistons. Artest will miss the final 73 games for fighting, which will go down as the longest non-drug suspension in the league’s history.
The league announced that a total of nine players from both teams were banned, including Artest’s teammates Stephen Jackson, who will be suspended for 30 games and Jermaine O’Neal, who was banned for 25 games. Artest, Jackson and O’Neal all threw solid punches at fans in the stands and on the court.
Detroit’s Ben Wallace, whose started the melee by shoving Artest after a foul, drew a six-game ban, while Pacers guard Anthony Johnson got a five-game suspension. Four other players received automatic bans for one game apiece for leaving the bench.
"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.
All of the suspensions are without pay and will cost Artest about $5 million in salary and O’Neal about $4.1 million.
After Artest was shoved, he went and lay down on the scorer’s table and a spectator threw a drink at his head. Artest jumped into the stands throwing punches as he climbed over the seats.
Although Artest seemed to have changed his violent, controversial behavior last season when he controlled his temper and won the NBA’s defensive player of the year award, the 25-year-old has gained a negative reputation. In the 2002-2003 season he led the league with 12 suspensions and eight flagrant fouls and lost approximately $500,000 in fines. In addition, earlier this month, Artest was benched for two games for asking for time off to promote a soon-to-be released rap album.
Commissioner Stern did not overlook his previous actions while making his decision. "To the extent that it was my decision, I did not strike from my mind the fact that Ron Artest has been suspended on previous occasions for the loss of self-control," Stern said.
After the fight ended, the referees called off the rest of the 45.9 seconds remaining in the game, as players were escorted into their locker rooms by security and spectators threw plastic bottles, drink cups and other garbage.
"The events at last night’s game were shocking, repulsive and inexcusable—a humiliation for everyone associated with the NBA," Stern said last week. "This demonstrates why our players must not enter the stands whatever the provocation or poisonous behavior of people attending the games."