OAKLAND--In a decision that has provoked outrage around the league, NBA player Stephen Jackson has been suspended “indefinitely” following NHL player Chris Simon’s vicious slash on Ryan Hollweg. Jackson has a hearing scheduled with the league later this week to determine the length of the suspension, but commissioner David Stern is already under fire for punishing a player who was not even involved in the attack.
Stern defended himself today by saying he was merely “sending a message.”
“We have to send a strong message to our players that behavior such as this will not be tolerated,” said Stern. “Whether or not Stephen was actually involved in the incident is not important. The important thing is something bad happened somewhere, and we don’t want it to reflect negatively on the NBA. It’s a shame, too, because the vast majority of our players are law-abiding citizens, not thugs. But Stephen Jackson is a thug, and he’s probably hit several people with sticks in his life, so it’s not like he didn’t have this coming.”
Stern’s critics often complain that he comes down too hard on players involved in on-court scuffles. While fighting in the NHL is tolerated as “just part of the game,” fighting in the NBA is seen as proof that the players are thugs, and is often met with Draconian disciplinary measures. The double standard is seen by many as racist.
“It’s frustrating,” said Pacers forward Jermaine O’Neal, a former teammate of Jackson’s. “When there’s a violent incident in the NHL, it’s no big deal, just business as usual. When something happens in the NBA, all of a sudden it’s a big crisis because all of the players are ‘thugs’ and ‘criminals.’ Now an NBA player is being punished by something that happened in the NHL? That doesn’t even make any sense. And it’s blatantly racist. I’m sure I’ll get fined for saying this, but what the hell do I care? I can hardly even jump anymore. I could use the time off.”
This is not the first time Jackson has been suspended. In 2004, he received a 30-game penalty for his part in the infamous Palace Brawl between the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers. However, the 27-year-old shooting guard is at a loss to explain why he was singled out for the latest incident.
“I’m not really sure why I’m getting suspended,” Jackson told reporters yesterday. “Admittedly, I haven’t been a model citizen, and it’s possible that my thuggery may have contributed to the overall degradation of society, which could have led indirectly to that hockey guy thinking it was okay to hit somebody with a stick, but that’s kind of a stretch. I don’t think I should be punished for someone else’s crimes. It’s too much. Between my own crimes and other people’s crimes, I hardly have time to brush my teeth in the morning.”
Simon himself has been suspended by the NHL for 25 games, which will force him to miss the rest of the regular season and playoffs. While violence is a regular occurrence in the NHL, the brutality of Simon’s hit caught the attention of fans, media, and the commissioner’s office. Succumbing to pressure from all sides, Gary Bettman handed down the record breaking punishment.
“It’s unfortunate it had to come to this, but we can’t tolerate the kind of brutality that we saw from Chris Simon,” Bettman said. “That guy could have died. We had no choice but to hand out a stiff punishment. Hopefully it will deter other players from going apeshit like that. If not, we could end up like the NBA, with all those crazy thugs running around beating up on each other. God, what a nightmare that league is. It just kills me that they have multiple TV deals, and we’ve been exiled to the Versus Network. Versus. V-E-R-S…oh forget it. I’m so damned tired of spelling out that word.”
In addition to the Jackson suspension, Stern will suspend another player, Zach Randolph, for an incident in Tennessee in which NFL player Pacman Jones was threatened with a knife. Though a man has already been arrested and charged, law enforcement officials say an NBA player was “probably” involved in some capacity.
When reached for comment, Randolph had this to say: “Oh my God. How in the hell did David Stern find out about that?”
NBA Player Suspended For NHL Player’s Hit
|March 13, 2007 Volume 2 Issue 86|