Volume 91, Issue 68
Thursday, January 29, 1998
Hold your horses everybody.
Before you pass judgment on former Golden State Warrior Latrell Sprewell's seemingly crazed actions last December, step back and look at the entire picture.
No doubt, the prevailing public consensus is Sprewell deserved the one-year suspension handed down to him by the National Basketball Association last month for allegedly choking and threatening Warrior head coach P.J. Carlesimo.
Like any reported instance of assault, Carlesimo had the option to press charges against Sprewell if he so desired, but he declined. However, the Golden State ownership would not be so quick to look past the event and decided it was in the best interests of the team to terminate Sprewell's $4 million contract. To add insult to injury, the NBA then complemented the Warriors decision by making a disgustingly obvious public relations move, suspending Sprewell for the remainder of the 1997-98 season.
The NBA saw the Sprewell situation as an opportunity to clean up the league's image and, in turn, made Sprewell a scapegoat for all the bad press the league has received of late.
Sprewell never really had the opportunity to defend himself to the league, since he was never given a proper hearing.
Instead, the NBA quickly took the opportunity to make a statement that it was putting its foot down on the antics of the "bad-ass" professional athletes like the Charles Barkleys, the Nick Van Exels and the Dennis Rodmans, who have given the NBA and its product a bad reputation.
Fans can't help but see all professional athletes as spoiled, ill-mannered brats, especially when isolated incidents like Los Angeles' Exel, who attacked a referee, or Houston's Vernon Maxwell, who struck a fan, occur.
The public wanted Sprewell's head and the league delivered.
From Sprewell's perspective, however, he has a legitimate case to call into question. Not whether he deserves to be suspended, but whether the NBA gave him due process and whether the extent of the punishment is justified in comparison to other sentences handed down by the league. In both cases the answer is no.
Neither the league, nor the public ever gave Sprewell a chance. They certainly weren't prepared to lend any credibility to Charles Barkley, one of the first players to publicly speak out in Sprewell's defence. Barkley's words carried little weight since his image is just as tarnished after he allegedly threw a man out a restaurant window last summer.
You can't blame the guy for hiring Johnny Cochran, who brought up the issue of racism. Sprewell is simply desperate to get back onto the hard court.
His one-year suspension is more than three times longer than any other passed down in NBA history and one would think the league would have been more careful and thorough in its investigation before jumping to such a quick and harsh decision.
Van Exel and Maxwell received only seven and 10-game suspensions for their actions. So are Sprewell's actions worthy of an 82-game blacklisting? Not in lieu of the precedent set by prior suspensions.
He admitted his mistake and apologized to Carlesimo, but while the player's actions were inexcusable and intolerable, Sprewell would have learned just as much from a 40 or 50-game suspension and mandatory conselling. Then the NBA wouldn't have to worry about the results of Sprewell's appeal, which may embarrass the league further if he wins.
What appeared to be a smart public relations move for the NBA, may backfire and become a public relations headache. So much for no more bad press.
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