delivered 21 November 2004
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[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from the audio]
Commissioner Stern: Thank you for coming on short notice. We've previously issued a statement, but for those of you who haven't received it, I will read its essence and then take any questions that you may have.
Today, I announced the following suspensions resulting from the actions at the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons game on November 19th.
The penalties issued today deal only with one aspect of this incident -- that of player misconduct. The actions of the players involved wildly exceeded the professionalism and self-control that should fairly be expected from NBA players. We must affirm that the NBA will strive to exemplify the best that can be offered by professional sports and not allow our sport to be debased by what seem to be declining expectations for the behavior of fans and athletes alike.
There are other issues that the NBA must urgently focus on at this time and we will. First, we must redefine the boundaries of acceptable conduct for fans attending our games and resolve to permanently exclude those who overstep those bounds. Quite simply, participants in and around the court must be assured complete protection from unacceptable fan behavior.
Second, we must reexamine the adequacy of our current security procedures in Detroit and our other 28 arenas. The actions at Friday's games [sic], though unprecedented must now be factored into all efforts to guarantee the well being of our fans and players and all in our buildings.
Finally, we must develop and implement new NBA rules to assure that the unavoidable confrontations likely to occur in the heat of competition are not allowed to escalate to the level we witnessed on Friday, even prior to the egregious behavior by individuals in the stands.
I'm happy to answer any questions.
Unidentified Male: All right guys. As usual, raise your hand, I'll take you on you. Wait for the boom mike and identify yourself and name and affiliation. Darren?
Question: Commissioner, Jeremy Schatt [sp?] from ESPN. What was your personal reaction when you saw for the first time what happened Friday night?
Commissioner Stern: I would say shock and revulsion and fear were my reactions to watching the spectacle that occurred on Friday night at the Palace at Auburn Hills.
Question: Liz Robbins, New York Times. Can you discuss how the decision came about to suspend Ron Artest for the entire season. Was that unanimous? And can you discuss why?
Stern: It was unanimous: 1-0.
Question (Robbins): Can you discuss the reasons for the entire year...?
Commissioner Stern: I guess I would -- I don't mean to make light of it -- it's my decision and I decided it and I spent the weekend reviewing more angles and tapes and replays than I have, I think, in many years combined. And we conducted and had the results of another something in excess of interviews of employees, players, referees, attendees. And at the end of that investigation, it's my responsibility to decide on penalties for player conduct -- and this is the one that I decided on. We have to make the point that there are boundaries in our games and that one of those boundaries which is, has always been but hereby announced to be immutable, is the boundary that separates the fans from the court. And players cannot lose control and go into the stands. And we have to -- there's a corollary which is we have to hold fans accountable for their anti-social behavior as well. Exactly how that will be done is something we will undertake to study and implement. But if anything can happen here that's good -- although we didn't ask to be at the epicenter of this discussion, we now, I think, are going to be in a discussion about what we're going to tolerate with respect to fan behavior, what we're going to tolerate with respect to player behavior, and what we now deem to be adequate security procedures to protect both. And, here we go.
Question: [undetermined] Fox Five Sports. You talked about looking at the security situation and all of your arrangements. What can you do immediately to address that?
Commissioner Stern: Well, we're in touch with all 29 arenas to ensure that they have adequate security in place. But for Friday's events, we were under the steadfast belief that they did. And that may still prove to be the case, if the reality is that our society and our arenas exist based upon a social contract that if you've got -- everyone knows that if 20, 000 fans decide to go on a rampage, we'd have a serious problem on our hands -- no matter what we did. In addition, I think, no matter what security procedures you have in place you have run a risk that a player can jump into the stands or that the fans will behave in an anti-social basis. So, we just have to review all of the procedures and really, I think, begin anew to determine what the covenant of civil behavior in our arenas is going to be all about, because we cannot tolerate a repetition of what occurred Friday night in Detroit.
Question: Hi, David, Mitch Lawrence, Daily News. How much did Artest's history factor into your decision? (a) and (b) Is he going to have to undergo any type of psychological testing or do anything to prove to you that next year he can handle the role of being an NBA player coming back.
Commissioner Stern: I would say that 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. In addition, I would say that each of the players are going to have to satisfy us that they understand the gravity of what they've done and that we have assurances that it will not be repeated by them. And that may take different forms with respect to different players, but this is something that will definitely be on an agenda. Frankly, we've got a lot of work to do in the next several days and coming weeks, but it is our practice and has been our practice to deal specifically with the discipline itself in a timely fashion, which we have. There may be other wrinkles. You know, I'm sure that someone's going to ask me about the salary cap or some connectivity like that, and I just want to make the point that this is about something much more profound and it was important for us to get this out. And to your point, we will be expecting the players do be able to assure us, in a manner satisfactory to us, that they're capable of accepting the professional guidelines that come from being and attached to being an NBA player -- which is the exercise of self-control and professionalism that was absent here.
Question: Commissioner Stern, Darren Rovell from ESPN.com. How confident are you that these suspensions will hold up?
Commissioner Stern: I'm confident, Darren, that these suspensions will hold up. But they were not made with that test in mind. They were made under my authority as commissioner to deal with on-court suspensions and misconduct and we're quite confident that they will be upheld.
Question: Mike Monroe, San Antonio Express-News. David, in that regard did you consult with Billy Hunter and do you feel you have his full support in this action?
Commissioner Stern: I would not put Billy Hunter at that risk -- to say that I feel I have his support and have consulted with him. I have informed Billy. He knows about this. I informed him before it was announced, and I didn't ask him for his support, although I do know, generally, how Billy feels about making the arenas safe for players and fans alike. I accept the reality that he has a job to do and constituency to represent, and I didn't try to in any way impinge or influence that. But I think that in light of our relationship and in light of the common concerns we have about our game, I accorded him the respect that he would accord to me of keeping him advised of what was going on and what the decision was going to be.
Reporter: Commissioner, Bob Grachowski [sp?], AP Radio. You mentioned that you had given some thought to Ron Artest's previous history. With that in mind, did you consider harsher sanctions against him.
Commissioner Stern: You know, I can't -- I can tell you that I couldn't factor out his previous history. And it it had been, perhaps, another person who had a different track record, might it have been different? I can't say for sure but I think it's a fair point to make that it might have been.
Question: Commissioner Stern, Mike Noble from CBS News. Yesterday there was another fight in a sporting event. The [South Carolina] Gamecocks versus the Clemson Tigers. There was quite a scuffle on the field. Coach Holtz got involved. Clemson coach Tommy Bowden has said he's blamed the aggressions on the brawl between the Pistons and the Pacers. He said for 24 hours they've watched this fiasco on TV, on every major news broadcast that thing was covered, and they sat there and watched it and watched it and watched it. Is there any comment regarding that and do you think that the brawl at the Pacers game may have had any effect on the Gamecocks and Clemson Tigers?
Well I can understand a certain fatigue that came from the amount of times that
this was run. It obviously made good copy. I counted in one news report that
lasted 20 minutes -- I counted 16 repetitions of it. But in all deference to the
coach on that one, you know the spectacle of state troopers having to separate
college kids is part of the same problem that we're all dealing with is -- what
is -- what's acceptable from players, athletes, and fans alike, and we'll deal
with our problems and they should deal with their substantial problems.
Question off-mike: ....
Commissioner Stern: Yes. All the players were interviewed. And -- hold on for a sec. But there's a -- for us, if you were on the court and you were -- or even, you know, we encourage players to act as peace makers. In fact, when I talk about additional rules, we have to find a way when an incident has stopped and there's an ample opportunity for tempers to cool down and things to end, we have to find a way to end it right there.
And that's the message that players who don't understand are going to get in a more -- in a firmer way, henceforth. I can tell you that because we definitely had certain flash points that could have been useful to avoid. And the context of our athletes standing there, screaming at each other across the divide of a single referee whose job it is to keep them apart and not removing themselves from a point of conflict, is just going to have to be addressed because obviously, whatever we do -- and I want to say something here on a very personal basis. It's really an apology of my own.
Whatever it is that we've been doing with respect to lowering the level of
expectation with respect to events such as this, obviously, wasn't enough
because it led to where we are now, and that means that this is the occasion for
us to start again. I'll accept the responsibility. We patronize our
athletes and our fans by accepting the fact that they should be allowed to
engage in something less than civilized, you know, conduct. To watch the out of
control fans in the stands to me was disgusting. It doesn't excuse what our
players did in going into the stands, but we have to begin examining that and
examining, okay, players. There's the unavoidable flare-up, but now what do we do
because we're professionals and we understand that -- to calm it down? Rather than
somehow expressing the misguided notion that the -- that receiving the adequate
respect makes you, makes it necessary for you to place other people at bodily
It's not going to be tolerated. And it's -- and as a result, it's not going to
be tolerated at its early stages, but there's if a flare-up, get it over with,
and go -- and move away and move on. That's where we're going in the NBA. I
don't know the specifics of it but that's where we're heading.
Question: Just a clarification on the root of responsibility, a two-part question. First, the Pacers, do you have any disappointment in light of Ron Artest's history that they didn't do enough to monitor him and also a clarification on, do you think that the referees were at fault at this point in not controlling him?
Commissioner Stern: Actually the referees were in their right positions. You know, one standing back, another keeping the players away from the fray and the third right in the middle of it. I, you know, I made a reference earlier that in order to restore order at the college game, there seemed to be a battalion of state troopers, which is not something that we have gone to in the NBA, and I'm not looking to go to. We'd like to think that the civil contract that guides us in our games is such that we understand what may happen and can adequately deal with it. Obviously, we had a breakdown in Detroit on Friday. As it relates to the Pacers and Ron Artest, I would say to you that Ron is not been unwilling to seek to control his emotions and to, you know, and to exercise a kind of self-restraint and self-control and to seek assistance to do that, but unfortunately, whatever assistance he has received to this point, did not keep him from doing something that was unforgivable on Friday night.
Question: John Giannone from the Madison Square Garden
Network. Commissioner, I'm wondering if there are any details that you can
share about how you plan to better protect that "border" as you called it, between
the players and the fans and might it involve any new policies toward the way
arenas sell alcohol to time frames.
Question: How much harsher?
The question is how much harsher? I can't say. There's a
I can't suggest to you that there's an exact science to this, but I'm given the
responsibility to look at the tapes, understand what's in all of the interviews
and then make a decision. And it's not to say that somebody else wouldn't have
made a somewhat different decision, but that's just the responsibility that I
Unidentified Male: Two more. Start right there.
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