While the penalty showed the NBA accepted Davis' argument that
he believed his wife was in trouble during Wednesday night's game,
it also made clear that entering the stands would not be tolerated,
no matter the circumstance -- especially not after last season's ugly brawl between fans and players at an Indiana-Detroit game.
"At the end of the day, what we had to decide on was the issue
of Antonio breaking the barrier from the court into the stands,"
Jackson said during a conference call. "At the end of the day,
that was the most important aspect of making that decision."
Jackson added that a player entering the stands normally results
in a suspension of "double-digit games."
Davis' suspension began with Thursday night's 105-79 home loss
to Detroit. The Knicks, also playing without injured Stephon
Marbury, matched their worst defeat of the season.
"I know how much those two guys mean to us but we had some guys
that simply didn't compete," Knicks coach Larry Brown said.
The players' union plans to file a grievance
to commissioner David Stern. Ironically, the Pistons were the home team the
last time players went into the stands -- when Ron Artest and
Stephen Jackson started an ugly brawl with fans in November 2004.
An embarrassment for the NBA, the brawl led to criminal charges
and lengthy suspensions for Artest, Jackson and Jermaine O'Neal.
The league was not nearly as harsh in this instance.
"Certainly the message was very clear after the Nov. 19
incident in that it was clear to our players that they were not to
enter the stands under any circumstances," Jackson said.
"Certainly this suspension is evident to the fact that we're very
serious about that declaration. We realize there were some
mitigating circumstances and we did in fact take that into
Still, Brown and players' association
director Billy Hunter were among those that thought the penalty was
"I could understand the league's point of view, but I'd like to
put Stu Jackson or David Stern or one of those guys in that
situation and see how they would have reacted," Brown said. "I'm
amazed at the restraint he had.''
Hunter said he thought a fine would have been enough, or at most
a two-game ban. Hunter said the five-game penalty would cost Davis
"close to $700,000."
Davis, president of the NBA players' association, jumped over
the scorer's table to get in the stands at the United Center.
"I witnessed my wife being threatened by a man that I learned
later to be intoxicated," he said in a statement after the game.
"I saw him touch her, and I know I should not have acted the way I
did, but I would have felt terrible if I didn't react. There was no
time to call security. It happened too quickly."
But 22-year-old Michael Axelrod said Kendra Davis tried to
scratch him after he protested a call. Axelrod said he never laid a
hand on Davis' wife and said he was not drunk.
"It's a lie. When I go to games, I cheer as hard as I can for
the Bulls, and I boo as hard as I can for whoever they're
playing," Axelrod said. "I don't feel comfortable if players are
allowed to easily jump into the crowd whenever they feel like it's
Axelrod's father, David, is a prominent Democratic political
consultant in Chicago who has worked with Senators Barack Obama and
Hillary Clinton and Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley.
Axelrod's attorney, Jay Paul Deratany, said he planned to sue
Davis and his wife for more than $1 million. Deratany said he was
writing the papers Thursday for a battery suit against Kendra Davis
and a slander case against Antonio Davis, and planned to file them
Deratany also said, "A public apology from the Davises would go
a long way toward resolving this."
According to Axelrod, he was sitting in the seventh row and
booed an official's call. Kendra Davis "came out of her seat. I
didn't even pay attention to her. I thought she was just going to
the bathroom or something," he said.
Axelrod, who was sitting a couple of rows behind her, said she
yelled at him to be quiet. Axelrod said he did not know she was
Davis' wife until the player ran into the stands.
Axelrod said Kendra Davis put both hands on his face, and that
he motioned for security. He said she later went after another fan.
"I was glad she was done hitting me, but I didn't want her to
hit anyone else," Axelrod said.
Antonio Davis appeared calm throughout and walked away willingly
when security arrived. He returned to the bench and took his seat
before being ejected. The game resumed after about a five-minute
Axelrod was escorted to the concourse by security, but said he
was allowed back into the arena and saw Ben Gordon's winning shot
at the buzzer.
"His wife and kids were up there," Knicks guard Jamal Crawford
said. "If you see your family in harm's way, you're going to go
protect them. You're the man of the house, and at that point you're
thinking like a regular human instead of an athlete."
United Center security remained in the stands for a few more
minutes, and other fans appeared to be explaining what they had
seen. Guards in suits and yellow jackets then escorted a group of
people from the area.
Davis has received support from several players, including some
that were at the Indiana-Detroit brawl.
"This is one of those situations where if you don't react the
way you react, there's no telling what might have happened,"
Pistons center Ben Wallace said. "Years from now you'll still be kicking yourself in the butt because you didn't react."
Brown said Davis went into the stands because
he saw his wife "falling back."
Brown was coaching the Pistons in November 2004 when that ugly
fight broke out in the stands between fans and Pacers during a
Detroit home game, leading to the suspensions of Artest, Jackson
But Brown was adamant that this situation should be viewed
"Come on, that's his wife," Brown said. "That's entirely
different. I was worried about Kendra. That's why he went in the
stands, he saw her falling back.
"That thing that happened in the stands had nothing to do with
the two teams. That's a man concerned about his family."