New arena security guidelines to take effect
ATLANTA -- The NBA will set new security guidelines for its arenas, exerting more authority over a matter previously left to individual teams, commissioner David Stern said Tuesday.
Stern said the Nov. 19 Pacers-Pistons brawl that spilled into the stands and led to three Indiana players being suspended for 25 or more games -- including the season-long penalty for Ron Artest -- exposed current policies as inadequate.
"I would say that's a whole subject that we have historically left to teams, and it's clear that's not going to be good enough anymore, so we're going to take another look at it," Stern said in his first public comments on the brawl since announcing the suspensions.
Stern said the new guidelines will be issued in early January.
The players union has filed an appeal on behalf of suspended players Stephen Jackson, Artest and Jermaine O'Neal, calling the penalties excessive. Jackson was suspended for 30 games and O'Neal for 25.
Stern, who issued the suspensions two days after the brawl, said he had ample time to consider the lengths of the penalties.
"Since the union has alleged that some of my public comments reflect a bias, I want to be careful, but I think it's fair to say I always think about what I've done," he said.
Asked if he would be willing to consider shortening the suspensions, Stern said, "I don't want to prejudge the appeal."
Stern was in Atlanta for Tuesday night's Hawks-Knicks game and to participate in a halftime ceremony honoring former Hawks owner Ted Turner.
Stern said concerns raised by the brawl had been a secondary issue in recent years.
He hinted the new security guidelines could include a ban on certain language used by fans.
"We know that you can't hurl objects at a game, and it may be that you can't hurl certain expletives, either," he said.
"Actually the area of most concern for us was protecting our building from terrorist threats," he said.
Stern also said he did not think the brawl, suspensions or appeal would affect the tone of the upcoming NBA labor negotiations, including a session scheduled for next week.
"I doubt it. I don't think so," he said. "I think that most players will realize that this action was taken to protect the golden goose and to protect their images, rather than to sully them. I would suggest that dealing harshly with players who breach fundamental tenants of player-fan interaction is designed to protect our players as well as our fans."
Stern said he expects talks with the union to rise above the negative publicity generated by the brawl.
"We've been at this for too many years," he said. "We can fight and be intelligent. We can fight and fraternize at the same time."
Artest bolted into the stands after being hit by a cup thrown by a fan, touching off a brawl in which players exchanged punches with fans, who also threw drinks, popcorn and other debris at the Indiana players.
Jackson also went into the stands and exchanged punches with fans, while O'Neal hit a fan who ran onto the court.
"I think it's important for our fans and the entire NBA family to understand that we have 450 players and only four were involved [to] the extent ... there were long-term suspensions," Stern said. "These suspensions are as much to set a fine line between behavior that almost all of the 450 would not engage in and the offensive behavior those four engaged in."
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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