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When Heroes Become Villains: Violence and American Sports

Aired November 22, 2004 - 20:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): They're pro sports superstars, pampered, praised and very well paid, heroes to millions of kids. But is fame and fortune too much for them to handle? A head-smashing brawl shakes the nation and raises new questions for parents and for professional sports. Tonight, a PAULA ZAHN NOW special: "When Heroes Become Villains: Violence and American Sports."


ZAHN: And there has been an awful lot of talk about moral values since the presidential election. Tonight, the discussion extends beyond politics. We're glad to have you with us tonight. Welcome.

And even if you don't follow sports, here's why you should pay attention. This little boy crying speaks more clearly than words. His heroes have scared him to the point of tears. In the next hour, we will try to figure out why.

We start with David Mattingly and the unexpected ending of a basketball game.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The ESPN Friday night broadcast is winding down. All the Indiana Pacers need to do is protect their five-point lead and leave Motown with a victory over division rivals the Detroit Pistons.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Pacers have played a very intelligent game tonight.

MATTINGLY: But then a dramatic turn.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Wallace. Right at Artest.

MATTINGLY: Just 45.9 seconds to go, Pacer Ron Artest fouls Piston Ben Wallace as he goes in for a layup. Wallace retaliates after the whistle by shoving Artest, grabbing at his neck. In the seconds that follows, players try to stay separated. There's some shoving and shouting. Coaches scramble to keep the peace. Watch Pistons coach Larry Brown on the right of your screen as he desperately tries to calm Ben Wallace.

All the while, Artest lays down on the scorer's table, like everyone else, apparently waiting to see if the still agitated Wallace is ejected; 45 seconds after the first shove, it all seems over. But 45 seconds later:

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now Artest has jumped over the scorer's table and is trying to get down to the bench.

MATTINGLY: What the announcer doesn't see is Artest being hit by a cup thrown from the stands. Artest then charges into the seats and attacks a young fan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Artest is in the stands. Oh, this is awful. Fans are getting involved. Stephen Jackson is in the fans.

MATTINGLY: In slow motion, you can see Artest knocking down the surprised fan. But as he pulls back his right arm, seemingly to land a punch, he is restrained by other fans. As they hold him, someone throws a beer in Artest's face. He is then clubbed in the head with a right forearm by another Pacer, Stephen Jackson.

As stunned fans watched, players and coaches rush into the seats to restore order. The Pacers are clearly in danger. Watch this scene taken from a wider angle. As Artest is restrained, he is punched in the head by a fan wearing a white hat. With Pacers rushing to his aid, Artest punches back. At the same time, just six seats away, yet another Pacer, Fred Jones, who seems to be trying to get to the man in the white hat, is attacked from behind by this fan in the gray sweatshirt. Jones is hit two, three, four times as he falls into the aisle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, what a sad scene here at the Palace. And now another fight is breaking out in front of the Pistons bench.

MATTINGLY: This time, it's Artest again, swinging away at a fan in front of the Pacer bench. Seconds later, another fan is caught by teammate Jermaine O'Neal. Then, four minutes to the second after the shoving incident that started it all, a chair flies out of the stands. Risking injury, some Pacers are wrestled to the safety of the locker room and angry fans take their final shots.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're pouring liquid over. What a disgraceful showing from the Pistons fans here.

MATTINGLY: The Pacers, who arrived as one of the NBA's best teams, retreat to a now uncertain season, their fortunes and possibly the league itself drastically changed by four minutes of violence.


ZAHN: And that was David Mattingly.

After Friday's brawl, the question was just how much would the players pay for their actions? Well, last night, the verdict landed like a ton of bricks.


ZAHN (voice-over): David Stern is the commissioner of the National Basketball Association. He spent the weekend replaying tapes of the brawl, then, last night, went before reporters.

DAVID STERN, NBA COMMISSIONER: I would say shock and revulsion and fear were my reactions to watching this spectacle that occurred on Friday night at the Palace at Auburn Hills.

ZAHN: With that, Stern handed downed harshest penalties in NBA history. Indiana's Ron Artest was suspended for the rest of the season, 73 games and without pay. He'll lose almost $5 million, more than 81 percent of his $6 million salary. Indiana's Stephen Jackson was suspended for 30 games. He'll lose $1.7 million. Indiana's Jermaine O'Neal's suspension lasts for 25 games, costing him more than $4 million. Detroit's Ben Wallace, who shoved Artest and started the trouble, drew a six-game suspension and will lose $400,000. Pacers guard Anthony Johnson will sit out five games.

Four players drew single-game suspensions, Indiana's Reggie Miller and Detroit's Chauncey Billups, Derrick Coleman, and Elden Campbell.

STERN: The actions of the players involved wildly exceeded the professionalism and self-control that should fairly be expected from NBA players.

ZAHN: But some people think Stern went too far. A written statement from Ron Artest says today, "I respect David Stern, but I don't think that he has been fair with me in this situation." Today, the hard-hit Indiana Pacers put on a brave front.

RICK CARLISLE, PACERS HEAD COACH: This incident is not representative as to who these guys are as people.

LARRY BIRD, PRESIDENT OF BASKETBALL OPERATIONS: And to our fans, we need you now as much as we ever needed you. We need support. We need you behind us.

REGGIE MILLER, INDIANA PACER: I had a feeling it was going to -- you know, we were going to be the black eye out of this whole incident.

ZAHN: More than a black eye. There may be legal ramifications as well.

DAVID GORCYCA, OAKLAND COUNTY PROSECUTOR: Everyone involved in this altercation will be held accountable, regardless of their status as a player or a fan.

ZAHN: It was much more than a game that ended badly. It's become the starting point for a national debate about standards of behavior.

STERN: We must redefine the boundaries of acceptable conduct for fans attending our games and resolve to permanently exclude those who overstep those bounds.

ZAHN: It's a debate that affects everyone, players, fans and parents. (END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And joining me now, Greg Anthony, who played 11 seasons in the NBA, is now an analyst for ESPN.

Good to see you. Welcome.

GREG ANTHONY, FORMER NBA PLAYER: Good to see you, Paula.

ZAHN: Doesn't it make you sick to see that tape?


I unfortunately had to watch it live. That was our game Friday night. We were in the studio. And it was shocking because the game itself was a normal game. A heated rivalry. Indiana controlled the game, 45 seconds. Game's basically over. Ron Artest takes a hard foul, and Ben Wallace took exception to it. And the next thing you know, I'm here with you.

So, it was overwhelming and shocking. And it bothered me really because when you're able to remove yourself from it and look at the totality of the circumstance, it's not just a player and a fan in terms of having an altercation. It became more than that.

ZAHN: What was it? Why did it happen?

ANTHONY: I think it's really more a matter of where our culture and our society has gone. Sports has always, in my mind, been analogous with society and a microcosm of it. And I think you saw this start in Europe with the soccer and how fans reacted and feeling a sense of being a part of the action.

And, again, I want to preface this by saying I in no way condone what Ron Artest did. You know, he crossed the line. I, as a player, understand that.

ZAHN: But you're basically saying he crossed the line because he was provoked by a fan.

ANTHONY: He was provoked. He was provoked. There's no question about it.

ZAHN: So is there equal culpability here?

ANTHONY: Well, there's culpability. No one is absolved from responsibility in this scenario. And I think you're going to see that play out.

And I would like to see long term, though, that something be done to try and squash this venom that has really started to develop between fans and athletes.

ZAHN: Well, what will change that?

ANTHONY: You know, it's going to be difficult. ZAHN: Bringing down the salary disparity, obviously, between what the players are making and what the fans are making. But they say that adds to the tension.


ANTHONY: Well, that's -- why would that be relevant? Because I'm certain that most people who entertain make substantial sums of money. I don't see..

ZAHN: But a lot of sports psychologists have said that that jealousy enters in to this.

ANTHONY: Why is it OK for a sport that has predominantly black athletes to make a lot of money when it generates a lot of money and it's not for, say, people who work in television or make movies or things of that nature to make a lot of money? The same conclusions aren't drawn there.

And that's where I have a problem and have issue with this. If you were subjected to what a lot of athletes -- and, again, not justifying the actions -- but if you were subjected to what a lot of athletes deal with on a regular basis when they go out and they try to perform their craft, for being called all types of racial slurs, the profanity, the vulgarity that's just spewed their way, and there's no recourse. And all you're told is to just walk away.

ZAHN: Hasn't that been the case for years?


ANTHONY: Well, but does it make it right?

ZAHN: No. I'm not saying it does.

ANTHONY: Racism was a case for a lot of years. Did it make it right? Slavery was the case for a lot of years. It didn't make it right.

ZAHN: But it's not a new issue, is it, that these young kids...

ANTHONY: No, but it's an issue that's becoming more and more volatile in our society, because our society, I think, is really starting to view violence in a different way.

I mean, I do really think that there is a moral renaissance, if you will, or moral revolution in our society, where we're starting to get to the point where we're immune to these things. You know, we have a war in Iraq right now. And what's our biggest story? We're talking about a fistfight at a professional sporting event. And I just think that this is a microcosm of what's going on in our society.

And I think that's where the real issues are. And that's where it lies.

ZAHN: From the team's side, will these long suspensions and these huge fines make a difference?

ANTHONY: It's going to make a difference to those who were involved. And I definitely think it will work as somewhat of a deterrent. There's no question.

ZAHN: Was it enough? Was it enough punishment?

ANTHONY: There are a lot who would argue it was too much, it was too severe and too harsh, because, again, at the end of the day, there was provocation, not justification. And, again, I want to keep reemphasizing that. But I think one thing you have to understand about being a professional athlete, that you have to take yourself emotionally and physically to a place that the average person has never, ever experienced to be able to compete at that level.

ZAHN: Sure. And do it consistently day in and day out.

ANTHONY: And do it consistently. And what happens is, we as human beings, we all have a boiling point.

ZAHN: Sure.

ANTHONY: Now, it's easy to sit here and Monday-morning quarterback as rational people, and say, well, you know, you shouldn't react that way. But when you put things in context, not that it justifies it, but it should allow you to understand a little bit more as to why someone would react that way. And that's why I think we need to focus more on that. It's not just the end result. What led up to that?

ZAHN: Greg, we'd like to talk about that more a little bit later on this evening. If you'd stand by, we'd appreciate it.

We have plenty more to talk about when it comes to this controversy. And the entire thing is at the heart of tonight's voting booth question. Should professional athletes be role models for children in the first place? Tell us where you stand at The results at the end of the hour.

And the fans who took part in this brawl also bear some responsibility, as Greg was just talking about. Some of them could actually face legal charges. But a large majority of the fans in Detroit were appalled. The reaction of one father and his young son who were at the game when we come back.


ZAHN: And welcome back.

For better or for worse, athletes are role models for many of our children. They are lionized for excellence and for their huge salaries.

Thelma Gutierrez looks at what happens when, with the swing of a fist, they become villains.


THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They are sports giants, the kings of the court and heroes on the field who play to adoring crowds. But 2004 is a year that may go down in infamy for beloved athletes who forgot to be good sports.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What a sad scene here at the Palace.

GUTIERREZ: An understatement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fans are throwing cups with liquid in them now onto the court.

KAREN SCHAKROV, MOTHER: I was extremely distressed and disappointed. I thought it was an abomination.

GUTIERREZ: Karen Schakrov's son Jonathan (ph) is 15, a high school basketball player.

Jamila Daniels has 9-year-old son J.J. He's been playing basketball for four years.

JAMILA DANIELS, MOTHER: Whether it's on a professional level or down to, you know, youth sports, that we're just not sending a message of sportsmanship.

GUTIERREZ: Instead, the mothers say, their children are seeing more and more of this. Perhaps this scene of a frightened and disappointed young fan in the stands for that Pacers game sums it up best.

SCHAKROV: As a parent, it sends very, very negative messages to my children, as far as what is the tolerated behavior of individuals.

GUTIERREZ: And it's not limited to professional athletes. On Saturday, an all-out college brawl broke out between Clemson and South Carolina. In Mexico, violence broke out in the stands at a soccer match. This is what happened in Portugal after a Euro 2004 soccer tournament.

DANIELS: I just think it's really important for everyone to keep in mind that it's the children that are seeing this, and that, you know, an example needs to be set.

GUTIERREZ: But who's setting the example? Take a look at what happened in Pico Rivera, California, between parents.

SCHAKROV: Something's wrong. Something's wrong. First of all, get a life. It's a game. It's a game. You win. You lose. You're there to have fun. You're there to teach your kid how to be, you know, a team player, hopefully to give them a little bit of, you know, self-confidence.

GUTIERREZ: That's what they're supposed to learn. But our moms say the lessons in good sportsmanship must begin at home. DANIELS: It begins at home. It begins with the kids. And if you teach them the proper code of conduct and values, like we said, sportsmanship, then I think, eventually, you know, it can change the culture of, you know, competition.


ZAHN: And joining me now from Ann Arbor, Michigan, is John Panzo and his daughter, Torrie Lynn. They were at the Pacers-Pistons game and witnessed the whole thing.

Good to see both of you. Thanks so much for joining us.

John, I know you were just about four sections away when the violence broke out. Did you think you were going to get hurt?

JOHN PANZO, WITNESS: No, I didn't, Paula. From our position where we were, I wasn't concerned about that with the violence that was going on in the stands. But I was certainly concerned for my daughter's safety with other people that were in the stands that were rushing towards the floor. So that was my concern from the position where we were at in the stadium.

ZAHN: What did it look like where you were watching this?

J. PANZO: Well, it was pretty unbelievable and pretty remarkable. I had never seen anything like that. I think we could see that there was going to be something that was going to start happening, but, I never could have imagined in my wildest dreams what we saw unfold before us with the Pacers coming in to the stands and fighting with fans. I could have never imagined seeing anything like that at a basketball game.

Torrie, were you afraid?

TORRIE LYNN PANZO, WITNESS: I was really scared. I was nervous. I thought that maybe some people wouldn't really do what they were supposed to and, like my dad says, rush down and try to just hurt people who had nothing to do with it. I was just nervous.

ZAHN: I can well understand that.

John, describe to us how the rest of the fans were reacting to this while you were basically watching in disbelief.

J. PANZO: Well, I think it was a small percentage of the fans that were certainly, as we've seen through all the footage over the last few days, were acting inappropriately.

But I think for the most part the fans that were still left were acting the way that they should. You had families like ours there. We had our friends there, Andy (ph) and Devon Beltzer (ph), that were there as well, and they were sitting right down towards the floor. And I think for the most part most of the fans were acting the way that they were supposed to. We were certainly appalled and disgusted by the behavior of the fans that were a small minority and did what they did to the other fans and to the players that were on the court as well.

I know I've been struggling for the last couple days, thinking of who to contact, whether it be the NBA, or the Pistons, or the Indiana Pacers. The children that were there, my daughter, Alexandra (ph), who is 10, and Torrie, who is 11 and Devon Beltzer, who is 7, and all the other children that were there. I was very emotional. The girls were very distraught. And I feel somebody owes them some sort of apology or some sort of word from one of the organizations to try and set them -- set them at ease.

ZAHN: John, you were talking about how you weren't worried about your own safety, but you were clearly worried about your daughter's and your friend's child as well. How did you explain what happened to your daughters when you got home?

J. PANZO: Well, we talked about it. And we're always very open with our girls. And we told them that that's not normal behavior. And that's not something that is to be expected from people that go to a sporting event. It certainly it isn't something that should be expected from the players. I mean, they crossed a line that I don't think should ever be crossed.

And they've made us, I think, think about safety now and when we go to the games. I've honestly been to a lot of sporting events and never felt one time any type of safety issues here for Redwings games, Pistons games, Detroit Tiger games, any games at all. So we've never felt unsafe.


ZAHN: Torrie, I know you went -- I'm sorry, John, to cut you off there.

Torrie, I know you went to school today and you talked with some of the kids who weren't even aware of what happened Friday night. What did you tell them?

L. PANZO: Well, I told them what happened and how it started and how it ended. Most of them didn't really know it happened. They didn't see it on TV or they weren't at the game.

So I told them. And they were in total shock and awe that anything like that would happen at a game that people were at to have fun at. They were just in total awe. They never thought anything like that would ever happen.

ZAHN: John, do you ever plan to go back to an NBA with your family again?

J. PANZO: You know, actually, Paula, we're going back Friday to see the Pistons play the Miami Heat. It will be just my wife and myself. But this was an unfortunate thing for the family. This was our first game ever where the four of us had the opportunity to go together.

We had looked forward to this for many, many weeks. And it was a real disappointment, the way that things came out. But, absolutely. We'll be going.

ZAHN: Yes. Well, I hope you have more of a celebration this Friday night. John and Torrie, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate your spending some time with us tonight.

PANZO: Thank you, Paula. Thank you.

ZAHN: And when we come back, we're going to continue our discussion of violence in sports and what it means for America's children and adults.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People really don't learn how to restrain their feelings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's kind of weird being that we look up to these people as idols and stuff and that they're out there making like -- acting like morons.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As they do more stupid stuff like this, I don't look up to them as much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Anger is, you know -- violence is not the way to resolve anger.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would have felt bad for my kids seeing it just because grown men shouldn't behave that way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It just doesn't show that you're that smart of a guy to do that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the fans are not going to come to the game.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've never heard of anything crazy like that before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The NBA to me has kind of gone downhill.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I believe that they should be suspended from the NBA, if not, you know, just completely thrown out of the NBA.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think if you hurt them in their pocketbooks and hurt them in a big way that maybe it will keep something else from happening.


ZAHN: That's the reaction from some kids and adults about last Friday's brawl in Detroit.

Joining me now from Chicago tonight, Marty Burns, a senior writer at, and from Watertown, Massachusetts, Peter Roby, director of the Northeastern University's prestigious Center For the Study of Sports in Society.

Welcome. Good to see both of you.



ZAHN: Thank you.

So, Peter, I want to start with you this evening. What makes it OK in our society for fans to do what they did on Friday night and for players to return in kind?

ROBY: Well, nothing makes it right to do that kind of thing. Nothing excuses the behavior.

I think the issue is what leads to that. I think one of the interesting things that we kind of have forgotten to mention is that the whole reason that this started was because Ben Wallace got a hard foul from Ron Artest and took it upon himself to extract some justice. So he whacked Ron Artest so he could prove how tough he was. And that's part of the issue in our society, is, we've got this skewed sense of what it means to be masculine in our society that leads people to make these kinds of decisions to take matters into their own hands, so they're not seen as soft.

And so Ben Wallace whacks Ron Artest. That leads to all the other things that happened. And Ron Artest, once he's hit in the head by a bottle thrown from a fan, he's going to show how tough he is and extract some justice. And then anarchy ensues. So there's plenty of guys in prison that have only made one or two bad decisions in their lifetime. But it led to somebody being killed and they've paid the price for it as a result.

ZAHN: Marty, you've been following this sport for many, many years. Do you think that fans and players are angrier today than they've ever been before?

BURNS: Well, I don't know. The original term cagers that they used for basketball players came about because they used to have steel cages on the side of the court to protect fans from the game from the players.

But I think in general our society clearly has made an in-your- face mentality now reigns. We encourage it. We celebrate it. And I think it's no surprise when we have these kind of confrontations and we see them on the floor.

ZAHN: Peter, I want to come back to a point you were making about the fact that a lot of these players are angry now, particularly if their masculinity is challenged in any way.

What are the differences, Peter, you've seen when you analyze sports and how they reflect what's going on in the larger society as a whole?

ROBY: Well, there's not much of a difference between the kinds of behaviors that you see in sport and what you see in society.

You have to remember that most of the athletes that are participating in the NBA are only between the ages of 19 and 25 or 26. So they're not unlike the consumers and the fans that are watching them actually participate. And they've grown up in the same kind of environment, with the gratuitous violence that's in video games, what they see in movies, what they hear their governor say when they want to defame somebody or make somebody feel bad by calling them a girly man.

That kind of cumulative effect has an impact on young people when they're not equipped with the critical thinking skills to make good decisions and not give in to the stereotypes that society tries to place on them.

ZAHN: Marty, I wanted to share with our audience an incriminating piece of information that I guess reflects badly on all of us. A 2003 study by "Sporting Kid" magazine found that more than 80 percent of parents, coaches and kids had witnessed violent behavior by parents at sporting events. What does this tell us?

BURNS: Well, there's no question that anybody who's been to a Little League game or a high school basketball game has probably -- if you've been to enough of them, you've probably seen parents acting irrationally, yelling at the officials and the players involved even in some cases.

And I think it's definitely a reflection of what we've seen in our society. I mean, we can't expect to have people behaving perfectly at professional events when they don't even act the right way with their kids at a local Little League park.

ROBY: And, Paula, if I might add a little something more to your statistics, you know, there's about 40 million kids that play youth sports in America, and 70 percent of them quit by the time they're 13, and the number one reason they give is because it's no longer fun.

ZAHN: Isn't that disgusting?

ROBY: Well, it tells you something about the adult -- the role that adults play in young people's lives and how important it is for us to set the right example, and so now we have an opportunity, after this event has unfolded, for adults to sit with their children at the dinner table, talk about the incident, talk about what their kids feel about the incident and then try to give them some idea about what it is to make good decisions, and not let their emotions get away with them when they're provoked because the result could be something that they might regret for a long time.

ZAHN: Well, wouldn't it be great if we all could learn collectively from what happened on Friday night?

Marty Burns, Peter Roby, thank you both for dropping by tonight.

BURNS: Thanks, Paula.

ROBY: My pleasure. Thank you.

ZAHN: Ron Artest was at the center of last Friday's Motor City melee, but Artest is by no means alone when it comes to explosive displays of temper. More of sports bad boys when we return.


ZAHN: No doubt there are many pro basketball fans who are not surprised by the actions of Ron Artest. While he has a reputation as an NBA bad boy, he is definitely not in a league of his own.

Here's Larry Smith.


LARRY SMITH, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR (voice-over): After multiple altercations and flagrant fouls, the Indiana Pacers' Ron Artest is known as much for his volatile temper as for his tenacious defense.

In 2003 alone, he attacked a TV monitor after a game in New York. Weeks later, he verbally abused Miami Heat coach Pat Riley on the sidelines and made obscene gestures to the crowd. He repeated that scene with fans in Cleveland months later. As a result, Artest was suspended for 12 games.

RON ARTEST, INDIANA PACERS: Those should not be allowed to even be shown on TV. But that was the last thing that I wanted to be shown on TV, was those -- those -- those gestures that I made, and I definitely apologize to the fans and mainly to the kids.

SMITH: The NBA has had its share of bad behavior.

During the late 1980s, the Detroit Pistons were known as the bad boys of the NBA, behind the hard play of Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn, which led them to back-to-back league championships.

One of the young players on that team grew into the personification of NBA nastiness. His championship rings couldn't protect Dennis Rodman from the wrath of NBA Commissioner David Stern after he kicked a courtside cameraman.

DAVID STERN, NBA COMMISSIONER: Dennis Rodman's actions injured a person invited into our arena. In light of this and his past activity, we're not going to be reinstating him until he assures us and we're satisfied that he can conduct himself in some way that doesn't put others at risk. We're not going to tolerate uncivilized behavior.

SMITH: Ironically, just this season, Artest changed his number from 23 to 91 to honor Dennis Rodman.

In 1995, Houston Rockets guard Vernon Maxwell left the court to attack a fan in the stands. He was suspended for 10 games.

While with the Golden State Warriors in 1997, Latrell Sprewell was suspended five months for choking his coach P.J. Carlesimo during practice.

The NBA is not alone when it comes to violence. International soccer clubs often deal with riot-like conditions. In Major League Baseball, just this year, the bullpen of the Texas Rangers had had enough of heckling from the seats, and relief pitcher Frank Francisco threw a chair, injuring a female fan.

In the NHL, a heckling fan falls into the penalty box and is pummeled by player Tai Domi.

TAI DOMI, NHL PLAYER: It's my work. No one's going to come to my work and -- you know, that's -- if he wants to come in there, he's going to have to pay the price.

SMITH: Some would argue that Detroit fans with a history of rioting in the streets were equally responsible for the incident involving Artest last Friday night. Sadly, such actions have not been limited to any particular individual, sports or region.


ZAHN: That report from Larry Smith.

I'm joined again by former NBA player Greg Anthony, an NBA analyst at ESPN, and also joining me tonight, another former NBA player Kenny Smith, who is now an NBA analyst for our sister network, TNT. All in the family tonight.

Welcome, Kenny. Welcome back, Greg.

Kenny, when you played, how often were you insulted by fans?

KENNY SMITH, TNT NBA ANALYST: Well, I think there's been a history of the reason that people become great fans or vicious fans is because of what they've said and done. I think -- in terms of overall, though, I think that the incidents have been minor in terms of verbal abuse, but there have been.

ZAHN: How tempted were you when you were assaulted verbally to fight back?

ANTHONY: You know...

SMITH: Well...

ZAHN: Oh, Kenny. You can go ahead. I'm sorry.

ANTHONY: Yes, Kenny. Kenny's been assaulted as well.

SMITH: No. Go ahead, Greg.

ANTHONY: Well, for me -- for me, I played on a team that was a very physical basketball team, got into a lot of altercations, and, therefore, when we went around to play in different arenas, we caught the brunt of it, I mean, everything from racial epitaphs to just vulgarity and profanity. And even in those instances, it's not as bad unless you've been brought to a level in terms of your emotions, whether it be an altercation on the floor. You can kind of deal with it because you're in control of your emotions.

But, as I said earlier, we all have a boiling point that when we get to there, it can be triggered.

ZAHN: Sure.

ANTHONY: And I think that's what you had here in terms of the provocation. It doesn't discount what he did. It doesn't justify what Ron Artest did, but it just shows people the culture and the environment in which athletes have to sometimes go out and perform.

ZAHN: Kenny, we were talking a little bit earlier about the average age of these NBA players. These are young guys. Do you think they're adequately trained by the NBA to put up with the pressure of insulting fans and to deal with all the junk physically you have to be subjected to?

SMITH: Well, I think the age really had no bearing on this situation. I think that if you really look at the situation, there was an act of actual dehumanizing aspect of a person. When someone spits in your face or someone throws something in your face or they strip you, it might not hurt, but it's a dehumanizing act.

And so that's going to get a reaction, and I think everyone knows that, and that's why he did it, to get a reaction. I think the fans, to me, were appalling and despicable in their whole display all night, and I understand what David Stern has done in terms of putting the maximum penalty to the NBA players. But I think that he also should send that message that we're going to sort out and we're going to find every single fan that we have on tape and we're going to prosecute you to the fullest limit that we can under the law, because we invited you into our house.

And it was unruly in terms of what Fred Jones, the gentleman who was -- the man who was fighting Fred Jones, I can't even say gentleman. The two guys who came onto the court to fight Ron Artest.

The person who threw the chair, we need to find this person. To me, it was despicable. And I think it was provoked a lot of the things. And they were looking for a reaction, and they got it.

ZAHN: Greg, you were talking to the head of the NBA today. I don't know what part of that conversation you're allowed to share with us. But is it, in your view, he's serious about working with prosecutors to go after these fans?

ANTHONY: There's no question about it. I think you also have to understand that in terms of your work environment, you as an artist, as an athlete, you have to feel like you can go out there and perform without being threatened.

And remember, this goes back to the Monica Seles incident. ZAHN: Sure.

ANTHONY: Where a fan came on and stabbed her. And so, that culture has been permeated. And it's kind of manifested itself now to the point where that has to be a concern for professional athletes.

And again, yes, Ron Artest was provoked. He still crossed the line.

ZAHN: Sure.

ANTHONY: But the reality is he was provoked in that those fans, not only do they need to be prosecuted, but they have to be done so to the maximum so that people know that they're sincere.

ZAHN: Kenny, real brief answer to this one. Do you think, had there been better security in place, this might not have gotten so out of hand?

SMITH: Well, I think without question, you know, if you look at the tape, it was -- it wasn't evident that you saw a lot of security personnel. So obviously, we could all say that we needed more personnel.

But I also think that if, to hit on what Greg was saying, as well, if you're going to make a line as David Stern has just made and say, "You know what? Now there is a very hard line for crossing over into the fans," there has to be that same line for the fans.

There has to be consequences for them if they cross over because -- and the funniest thing my daughter said something so profound. She asked me, she said, "What happened to the guy who went into the stands?"

I said, "You know what? He's out for the season."

She said, "Wow, that's pretty bad." And she said, "But what happened to the guy who threw the beer?"

And I said, "Well, nothing yet."

She said, "Well, what will make him not throw it again?" Exactly.

ZAHN: Out of the mouth of babes. They always get it right, don't they? Kenny Smith, Greg Anthony, thanks. Good luck to both of you. See you all on TV.

All right. When it's all said and done in professional sports the bottom line is the bottom line. The NBA money game, when we come back.


ZAHN: And welcome back. Needless to say, the Friday night brawl has burnt up the airwaves on sports talk radio. Here is some of the reaction to the way the NBA handled it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The players, they don't get it. Your coaches, are enablers and your players don't get it. They are still blaming other people. Reggie Miller said, "Well, when all the facts come out. What facts are going to come out?"

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They threw a cup of beer at Artest. He was a mad man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he went in the stands and started beating up people in the stands. How are you going to alibi that away? You can't. Don't even try.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to tell you, New York City correction officer.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Been on riots for 20 years. And I close my eyes and I listen to these guys like Vince Carter trying to say why these guys should have done exactly what they did. They're thugs. It's all they are.


ZAHN: Just a sampling of how the NBA brawl is playing out on talk radio today.

Well, it didn't just give basketball a black eye. As CNN's Allan Chernoff reports, it could end up hitting the league where it really hurts.


ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For the business of the National Basketball Association, this punch is a crisis, an assault on the NBA brand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is very, very dangerous.

CHERNOFF: So commissioner David Stern is responding with crisis management.

DAVID STERN, NBA COMMISSIONER: The NBA will strive to exemplify the best that can be offered by professional sports and not allow our sport to be debased.

CHERNOFF: By reacting aggressively, suspending the Pacers' Ron Artest for the season, Stern is trying to defend the NBA's franchise.

MARTY BLACKMAN, SPORTS MARKETING CONSULTANT: Certainly, the league's image is tarnished. But I think the important question is, is it a lasting tarnish? Can it be repaired or erased? And I think that is the real job for the NBA to do in the next ensuing months.

CHERNOFF: Even before Friday, the NBA was facing problems. Attendance is down. Broadcast television ratings fell last season. And there's threat of a lockout next season because of a dispute between owners and players who on average earn over $4 million a year.

Many fans, who pay an average of $45 a ticket, are upset.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm questioning now, you know, whether or not you know, this is a good investment, even from an entertainment standpoint, because that's pretty much all it is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think people are tuning out.

CHERNOFF: The Pacers' Ron Artest loses $5 million for the season. But Artest is also a businessman. He runs a music label and has recorded a rap album. Marketing experts say it's possible his notoriety will generate business.

Artest has endorsed sneakers from L.A. Gear, which says, "At this time, we are reviewing all of our plans concerning his role with our company and our brand."

NBA sponsors, who want nothing to do with Artest, are backing the league, Coca-Cola saying, "We support steps taken by Commissioner Stern." And Anheuser-Busch declaring, "We are pleased to see the NBA take action."

(on camera) The NBA's tough penalties serve as a deterrent to prevent another such incident. And, Paula, sports marketing experts say that's exactly what's needed to protect the business, and repair damage to the NBA.


ZAHN: Thanks, Allan. Allan Chernoff reporting for us tonight.

And one of the most successful coaches in college basketball has something to say about the NBA players and the penalties. And we'll also be hearing from Syracuse University's Jim Boeheim right after this.


ZAHN: And welcome back.

Joining me now for his reaction to the Pacers/Pistons brawl is Jim Boeheim, basketball coach at Syracuse University. One of his former players, Derrick Coleman of the Pistons, was among those suspended after the brawl, for a game.

Welcome to the program, Coach. Good to see you.

JIM BOEHEIM, BASKETBALL COACH, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY: Nice to be with you. You notice Derrick didn't get in the fight. He's -- you know, he held back and walked away, which I was proud of seeing that with him.

ZAHN: Did he get a fair penalty then?

BOEHEIM: Yes, I think so. When you leave the bench in the NBA during a fight, it's a one-game suspension.

The other suspensions, obviously, were warranted. The commissioner came down the way he had to.

But, I'm going to lean a little bit, I heard Kenny Smith, and even though he's a North Carolina guy and I hate to agree with those North Carolina guys, I think the fans have to be held accountable somewhat, Paula. You know, there's a word, "mitigating circumstances." And I think they're pretty much involved in this case.

The fans that were left at the end of the game, after the fights, I don't think they were quality fans. I think those guys down around the court with beer bottles -- beer glasses in their hands and popcorn and throwing that stuff, I don't think were typical NBA fans.

And I think that's a circumstance that -- you know, Ron Artest I've known since he was in 10th grade. He shouldn't be up in the stands. We all know that. And he should be very severely punished.

And I don't really have a problem with the length of the suspension. It could have been 40 games, could have been the whole year. I think we all agree there had to be something strong done.

But, I really think the tunnels where you go out in NBA arenas, there should be security there. There's people leaning over, throwing stuff in. Where's security in that situation? That's a dangerous exit for not only players, but for referees. That needs to be addressed.

ZAHN: But Coach Boeheim, to be perfectly realistic here, if people aren't charged, these fans aren't charged, this may not have any impact on fan behavior at all.

BOEHEIM: Well, I think some of these fans will be charged, my feeling would be.

I think one thing with the NBA, you remember there used to be a guy in Washington that sat behind the bench and taunted the players the whole game, and it seemed to be OK.

Well, if it's OK to taunt the players, and yell and scream at the players during the course of a game, then the next step is, well, I guess we can throw something at the players. And then what's the step after that?

So I think there needs to be a thorough review of fan behavior by the NBA, what they can control. The attitudes, and the taunting, and the screaming, personal things that players, players should not have to put up with that.

You don't pay your $40 to come to the game and have the right to verbally abuse players. You have the right to watch the game. And I think that that needs to be addressed.

I think some of the fans, I think we're giving a little bit too much credit for some of these fans. It's like some of the talk show hosts that want to have Ron Artest banned for, I think, for life and maybe even put in prison. You know, I think that, you know we've got to get some calm rationale here.

It was interesting. I have a 6-year-old son, and you know, we called home. We were in New York for a tournament, and I called home. He watches ESPN at 8 o'clock before he goes to school. And the first thing he said, "Dad, Dad, what happened?"

And I explained to him. I said, you know, "Players are great to watch. You should admire them as players. But they're going to make mistakes. They're going to do bad things."

ZAHN: All right. So coach, should they be role models?

BOEHEIM: Absolutely not.

ZAHN: So it's a bit of a joke, is it not, how society deifies these guys?

BOEHEIM: Absolutely. It's absolutely -- I tell my kids every day respect these guys. They're great players. And some of them are great people.

But, you're not going to follow them and look to them for your behavior patterns. That's not what it's about. They're to be watched and admired for their athletic ability.

I've admired many athletes who have great abilities, who were probably not real good people. And I think we have to make sure kids understand that. And you know, I explain to my kids every day that. I think other parents need to explain that to their kids.

ZAHN: Well, maybe we'll learn some life lessons from you this evening. Coach Boeheim, thank you for your honesty tonight. Appreciate it.

BOEHEIM: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: And good luck to your team.

We'll be right back with the results of tonight's "Voting Booth" question. Stay with us.


ZAHN: And we are back with the results of tonight's "Voting Booth" question: "Should professional athletes be role models for children?" Fifty percent of you said yes; 50 percent of you said no. Keep in mind, this is not a scientific survey, just a sampling from our web site. Appreciate your logging on tonight.

And that is it from all of us here tonight. Thanks so much for joining us. Tomorrow night, the former Marine who spoke for the Pentagon who had changed his mind about the way the war was reported. That's tomorrow night.

Thanks again for dropping by tonight. "LARRY KING LIVE" is next.


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