SLAPS ON THE WRIST HURTING SPORTS
L’Observateur / March 7, 1998
After Mike Tyson was suspended from boxing for a year by the Nevada Boxing Commission for biting Evander Holyfield’s ear during their match, a cartoon ran in the Chicago Tribune showing Tyson crying “No fair! He slapped me on da wrist!” I was immediately reminded of that cartoon when I heard about two incidents in sports this week. The first was Latrell Sprewell getting hissuspension for choking head coach P.J. Carlesimo cut by five months. Thearbitrator hearing the case, John Feerick, wrote that the penalty of 68 games and $6.4 million in lost salary “conveyed the message that violencein the NBA would be dealt with severely but always with due regard to principals of fairness.”Giving Sprewell back his contract and allowing him to keep $17.3 millionin what he would have lost in salary had his suspension been carried out to the fullest also conveyed what happens if you whine long enough. Try doingto your boss what Sprewell did to his and see what happens. Unless ofcourse, you can shoot from the outside or dunk a basketball.
NBA commissioner David Stern was right when he said that Feerick “missed the opportunity send a message of what sports leagues stand for.” Unfortunately, the decision also may have set a precedent in sports.
Leagues could be hesitant to discipline a player knowing that their decision could very wind up in the courts and be overturned. The leaguesneed the ability to discipline its players just as any corporation in the “real world” would be allowed.
The other incident in sports was Boston Red Sox first baseman Mo Vaughn being acquitted of drunken driving in Boston. Vaughn’s license has beensuspended for six months because he refused to take a breathalyzer test.
I do not know all the specifics of Vaughn’s case and it could very well be that he is innocent. Vaughn is often considered one of the good guys ofbaseball and it is a shame to see something like this put a blemish on his record. But coupled with the Sprewell incident, it gives the impressiononce again that athletes can get away with more than most of the general public. That impression is not a new one nor is it one that can be expectedto go away anytime soon.
There are professional athletes who often emphasize that they should not be expected to be role models. But whether they like it or not, there areyoung people today who look up to them and emulate their actions. Justthis past week, a high school student in Oakland, Calif. was cited by policefor attacking his coach.
Indiana coach Bobby Knight faces a possible fine and suspension for calling the officiating during his team’s game against Illinois last week, “the greatest travesty” he has ever seen as a college coach.
Knight only had to look at the headlines in the sports page this week to see the greater travesty could very well be not the disciplinary actions that leagues take, but the lack of enforcement behind those actions.
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