New York Knicks player Antonio Davis is awaiting word from the NBA after ascending into the stands to allegedly defend his wife from a hostile fan during a Knicks-Bulls game at the United Center in Chicago on Wednesday night. As reported by AP and others, the incident stemmed from an altercation between Davis' wife Kendra and a Chicago Bulls fan, identified as 22 year old Michael Axelrod.
On the he-said, he-said scoreboard, Antonio Davis jumped the scorers table and ascended the stands to defend his wife from an over-zealous, drunk fan, identified as Axelrod. Davis claimed he took action after he witnessed Axelrod grab or touch his wife. Axelrod, who incidentally was sitting two rows behind Kendra Davis, alleges that Kendra Davis tried to scratch him after he protested a call. Axelrod said he never laid a hand on Davis' wife and said he was not drunk. The problem now facing Davis as this current NBA players-into-the-stands fiasco gets played out is that Axelrod isn't just you or me, Joe fan enjoying the game. Axelrod's family is involved in the Democratic Party and his father is a top of the line Democratic consultant who has worked with Hilary Clinton among others. Axelrod has announced that he will be pursuing damages in this matter to the tune of $1 million.
This leaves us with a few things to ponder. One, the NBA and other major sports where there is a potential for player-fan interaction, (read all sports), must better educate their players on the proper etiquette required of them when they partake in their sport. Two, Joe Fan, by paying for his ticket, is able to do what he wants at the game so long as he stays within the boundaries that are set by the facility at which the event occurs. Three, family and acquaintances of the players are going to have to tow the exact same line that Joe Fan has to tow, or be held to the same consequences as Joe Fan.
Point number one, re-education. To me it's simple; it's all about the carrot and the stick. Simply put, as a player you are paid to perform your feats of athletic talent on the court. Your focus should be on the court. As an organization, the NBA must enforce a strict conduct code in this regard. If you go into the stands past what is acceptable to the normal parameters of the game, (i.e. a player who would dive into the stands for a loose ball is acceptable.), the player should receive a 20 game suspension, the coach should receive a 10 game suspension, and the team should be either fined monetarily or through the loss of draft picks. The NHL has a code of conduct during fights, if a player comes off the players bench to start or join a fight, instant 10 game suspension, the coach also gets suspended for not controlling the player and the team gets fined for not having control of the situation.
Antonio Davis is not only a well paid NBA player, he is the President of the NBA Players Association. If the President of the PA cannot adhere to a simple rule of staying out of the stands, then you have bigger problems.
Now, Joe Fan has every right as a ticket paying member of this equation, to say and do whatever he wants provided that Joe stays within the boundaries of what the facility dictates. In the case of Axelrod, he is a die-hard Bulls fan and was cheering a call against Davis and the Knicks when Davis' wife decided that he needed a smack. Now, if Joe Fan crossed the line, either with profanity, slur, etc., then he gets tossed, no questions asked. The facility should also investigate if this fan was or is a season ticket holder and if the offence was bad enough, those privileges should be revoked and this Fan should lose the right to attend these games. Again, I believe that if Joe Fan was crazy about his club, but knew if he crossed the line, he would not only get tossed, but not be allowed back for a season or two, problem solved.
This brings us to the family members and acquaintances of the player, let's call them the Posse. The roll of the Posse is simple, support your player. If you get out of line, refer to the rules that Joe Fan has to live by. To me, once again it's simple. Imagine if I was at a Seattle Mariners game and my brother Ken was the star shortstop. If I get out of line and start harassing other fans or worse, I would not only get the toss from that game, but potentially get the toss for the season or longer. My brother would sure be impressed!
The one thing about rules is this; people always try to circumvent them. Fans scream about their rights being violated. Players whine about how they can't focus because their Posse isn't there to cheer them. Make the rules cut and dry. When you buy the ticket, these are the rules. If you no-likey, don't buy. If you are a player, you sign a contract that has morality clauses; this should be added to it.
It will allow the rest of us to enjoy the game.