Wednesday , Dec , 22 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

O’Neal has suspension reduced; NBA to challenge

New York, NY (Sports Network) – Indiana Pacers forward Jermaine O’Neal had his
suspension reduced to 15 games Wednesday by an arbitrator, but the NBA does
not recognize the ruling.

O’Neal was involved in a brawl with fans during a game against Detroit in
Auburn Hills on November 19 and was suspended for 25 games by NBA. The
arbitrator, Roger Kaplan, reduced O’Neal’s suspension after a December 9
hearing.

NBA Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik issued the following statement in
response: “The operative language of our collective bargaining agreement
provides that any dispute involving a suspension imposed upon a player for
conduct on the playing court may be appealed only to the Commissioner and not
to an arbitrator. As a result, we have consistently maintained that the
arbitrator has no legitimate role in this matter. While we obviously agree
with Mr. Kaplan’s decision upholding virtually all of the suspensions, we
don’t agree with his conclusion that the conduct did not occur on the playing
court, and we have no choice other than to challenge it in federal court.”

Kaplan upheld the league’s suspensions of Ron Artest and two other Indiana
players. Artest, who received the most severe penalty, was suspended the
remainder of the season.

The league did not participate in the arbitration hearing.

The brawl started late in a seemingly calm game with Indiana in front by 15
points. Detroit’s Ben Wallace was fouled by Artest and the Pistons center took
exception to what he deemed a hard foul and gave Artest a two-handed push to
the face.

After that, the confrontation continued by the scorers’ table as players came
off both benches. The Detroit fans then lost all control and began throwing
cups filled with liquid and ice at Artest, who was laying on top of the
scorer’s table. Artest was hit in the head with a flying cup and immediately
raced into the stands where he started punching whom he thought was the
culprit.

Stephen Jackson followed into the crowd, along with several Pacer players,
and started swinging away at the unruly fans.

O’Neal was also involved in a fight with a fan on his way to the locker room.

After security tried to get the players out of the crowd, the game was called
with 45 seconds remaining. However, the fighting was not over as Detroit fans
continued to pelt the Pacers as the players were being escorted into the
locker room. The players and coaches were finally able to make it into the
tunnel, but not before all tempers were lost.

Five members of the Pacers and several Detroit fans were criminally charged.
O’Neal was charged with two counts of misdemeanor assault and battery, while
Artest, David Harrison, Anthony Johnson and Jackson were all charged with one
count of assault and battery.

IND