Wednesday, May 04, 2005

David Stern -- does absolute power corrupt

Leadership, power – David Stern the National Basketball Association’s Commissioner is all that and a great deal more. The man who saved the NBA from itself in the mid 1980’s seemingly has evolved from one of sports most respected industry leaders to a man possessed by the powerful position he holds. His latest tirade, suggestions he’s prepared to toss Houston Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy out of the sport – a lifetime ban for comments Van Gundy made after game four of the Rockets – Dallas Mavericks first round NBA playoff series.
The NBA levied Van Gundy with a $100,000 fine Monday, the largest fine ever assessed against an NBA coach for misconduct -- after he publicly accused the league's game officials of inappropriately targeting Rockets center Yao Ming during the playoffs, and blamed Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban for causing the allegedly disparate and inequitable treatment.
According to an Associated Press report: Van Gundy got himself into trouble by telling three reporters at the team hotel in Dallas on Sunday night that a referee not working the playoffs called him after the Rockets went up 2-0 and warned that Yao was mentioned in an online evaluation from supervisor of officials Ronnie Nunn.
Van Gundy added that because Cuban "has been hard on" the league and officials, "he's gotten the benefit."
"I didn't think that really worked in the NBA, but in this case it has," Van Gundy said.
He stood by his complaints Monday and said he's made many of them privately to the league all season.
"I said what I said. I believe what I believe and I've seen what I've seen. They've got to do what they think is right," Van Gundy said. "I would watch all of (Yao's) 20 fouls with anyone. And I would have no problems making my case that he's not refereed appropriately. I stand by that."
Stern attending game five of the Rockets – Mavericks series Monday night in Dallas announced the fine, along with the following comments: "It's just inappropriate," Stern said. "He was penalized for it. We'll see where we go from here.
"There were a lot of things that were done by innuendo but had the effect of using names. We're not going to tolerate it. We're not through with the affair yet. But for now, a $100,000 fine is a good intermediate step. The investigation is not closed. (Further discipline) is possible.
"If he's going to say things like that, he's not going to continue in this league. We're going to have to see. If the attitude reflected by those comments continues to be reflected publicly, he's going to have a big problem with me so long as I'm the commissioner." Stern said.
According to The Houston Chronicle when asked by the league to reveal his source, Van Gundy refused and was according to Stern in violation of Article 24 of the NBA bylaws.
Let’s all take a deep breath, and access what is really happening. The Rockets won the first two games of the series in Dallas and lost the next two games at home. Van Gundy was upset and lashed out at the referees. Maybe he should have looked at more game films before pointing fingers, but that aside does David Stern really believe he’ll be able to impose a lifetime ban on a coach for suggesting he (the coach) didn’t like the referees after his team had lost two (now three) straight playoff games?
This isn’t the first example of David Stern suggesting he was going to bring the hammer down on someone Stern believed had committed an egregious foul against the NBA. After November’s Mayhem in Motown incident when members of the Indiana Pacers and fans attending a Detroit Pistons – Pacers game at the Palace at Auburn Hills became embroiled in a post game brawl, Stern made it clear he would be the sole arbitrator in dealing out punishment, fines and suspensions resulting from what took place at game.
Artest was suspended for the rest of the season, and two of his Indiana Pacers teammates Jermaine O'Neal and Stephen Jackson would miss a total of 55 games for fighting with fans during the melee that broke out at the end of a game.
Overall, the NBA issued some of the harshest penalties in its history by banning nine players for more than 140 games. Artest's suspension was the strongest ever levied for a fight during a game.
"The line is drawn, and my guess is that won't happen again -- certainly not by anybody who wants to be associated with our league," commissioner David Stern said.
"We have to make the point that there are boundaries in our games," Stern said. "One of our boundaries, that have always been immutable, is the boundary that separate the fans from the court. Players cannot lose control and move into the stands."
"It was unanimous, one to nothing," Stern said. "I did not strike from my mind the fact that Ron Artest had been suspended on previous conditions for loss of self-control."
Jermaine O'Neal appealed Stern’s decision (in the NBA Stern is judge, jury and the according to NBA by-laws the sole person NBA players and coaches can appeal his decisions too – absolute power) to Roger Kaplan (and independent arbitrator) as was his right according to the NBA’s CBA. Kaplan upheld Stern’s suspension of Ron Artest (for the rest of the season and postseason), Stephen Jackson (30 games) and Anthony Johnson (five games) for their roles in the Nov. 19 incident that concluded a 97-82 Indiana victory over Detroit in The Palace of Auburn Hills, reduced O'Neal's suspension from 25 to 15 games.
Stern was justified in fining Van Gundy $100,000. The comments the Houston coach made were irresponsible. Asking Van Gundy for his source was also the right action for the league to take, but Stern stepped over the line when he suggested he was prepared to consider a lifetime ban on Van Gundy.
The silliness of his Stern’s remark’s "If he's going to say things like that, he's not going to continue in this league. We're going to have to see. If the attitude reflected by those comments continues to be reflected publicly, he's going to have a big problem with me so long as I'm the commissioner," sends a terrible message to the NBA stakeholders, the league’s players, the league’s franchise owners (David Stern’s real bosses). The message, the warning maybe its time the NBA considered their options when it comes to David Stern’s future with the league.
David Stern’s legacy as a leader in the sports industry should place him among sports legendary leaders. He should be thought of as a man who should be held in the highest possible regard with all the respect and admiration he’s earned. However attempts to claim absolute power, the ability to hand out lifetime bans, the claim that he is a majority of one only serve to taint the reputation David Stern has worked so hard to earn. One can only home a man has honorable as David Stern is, comes to his senses and leads the NBA and stops dictating his beliefs.
For this is Howard Bloom. Sources used in this HB Insider Report, The Houston Chronicle, Associated Press, Indiana and