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NBA to Indiana: 'Screw you'
Artest remains a political prisoner

By Steve Hammer/NUVO
Published: March 30, 2005

NBA Commissioner David Stern has made it official: Ron Artest will not
return to the Indiana Pacers this year.
This means that Artest will have suffered the largest fine ever levied
in the history of professional sports, and it continues the
persecution of Indianapolis and the Pacers team.
Let's go through the facts, one more time: Artest did not instigate
violence Nov. 19. When he entered the stands and decked a few white
trash fans, it was only after he'd been attacked twice, first by the
Pistons' Ben Wallace and then by the hillbillies.
Stern's decision means that the only places you'll see Artest play for
the Pacers until next October are on your Xbox or Playstation 2. But
having No. 91 drain threes and block shots in NBA Live is no
substitute for the real thing.
Again, the question needs to be asked. What is the real reason behind
Artest's suspension? Who stands to benefit by it and who stands to
lose the most?
Back in December, Stern more or less admitted in a meeting of team
owners that one of his primary motivations for the harsh suspensions
was to appease the "red state" people who dislike the NBA and see it
as an out-of-control sport.
The NBA has a severe image problem with white conservative consumers,
who've tended to follow NASCAR and the NFL with more passion than they
have the NBA of late. So Stern had to let Bush voters know he's "tough
on crime."
While Indiana is part of the large saltine that makes up Red State
America, the Pacers are a team owned by Democrats and located in a
county that voted for John Kerry. In Stern's view, we're part of the
The solution is to get more white fans back in the stands and watching
the games on TV. Punishing Artest severely was one of the tactics
being used.
Make no mistake: Ron Artest is a political prisoner, just as much as a
Soviet dissident was in the 1950s. His gulag just happens to be a
mansion and his lifestyle is a bit more luxurious than your typical
Guantanamo detainee.
Stern took the coward's way out when he suspended Artest. It was the
easy and popular thing to do, but it really solved nothing whatsoever.
Violence still exists in the world. Basketball players still get angry
at each other.
Who benefits by Artest being suspended? Well, the Detroit Pistons, for
one, and the Miami Heat, for another. Both teams stood to gain by the
removal of a chief competitor — and, have no doubt, the Pacers were a
legitimate title contender until Nov. 19.
What do Miami and Detroit have in common, besides being crime-ridden
hellholes? They're both large media markets, with plenty of consumers
ready to buy Nike shoes and Gatorade and other products advertised
during NBA telecasts.
They also have cute and cuddly centerpieces: Ben Wallace and Shaquille
O'Neal, who are camera-friendly and possess media savvy. They're not a
collection of ******** and thugs, as the Pacers have been portrayed by
the national media as being.
This is the problem Indianapolis will face as long as it fields teams
in major league sports. Our teams will get screwed over whenever
possible, because the deck is stacked against us due to our being a
small market.

Meanwhile, in that corrupt and decadent sport called baseball, players
are literally falling over each other to admit steroid abuse and/or
implicate former teammates in the drug scandals.
When I was a kid, at least I knew that Hank Aaron and Johnny Bench
weren't mainlining performance-enhancing drugs in the locker room
before the game. Aaron's record 755 homers came as a result of hard
work, prayer and talent, not something in a syringe.
Here's a safe bet: If a player or players are chosen by Major League
Baseball to be scapegoats in this drug scandal, they won't be from Los
Angeles or New York. It'll be Milwaukee or Cincinnati that suffers,
because they're small markets, too.
You can say, with quite a bit of truth behind it, that it's all about
money. But it's more than that. It's about money, sure, but it's also
about the New Puritanism, the hypocritical set of morals the winners
of last November's elections are trying to force us into adopting.
The New Puritanism says that some crimes are worse than others,
especially when minorities, Democrats or poor people commit them.
Homosexuality is bad but allowing a gay prostitute into the White
House press room is OK. Homosexuals should not be entrusted to adopt
children, although they can be appointed to the Cabinet.
Gay marriage is a horrible thing but it's OK if our soldiers make
Iraqi prisoners form naked human pyramids. That's just harmless fun;
that doesn't mean our soldiers were gay. Everyone knows there are no
gay soldiers in the military. Removing a brain-damaged woman's feeding
tube is bad but capital punishment is good.
Stern took all of those things into account when he gave the Pacers'
season the death penalty. The only people suffering are the Indiana
fans, and we don't count because we're not in a large media market.

And then there's Ron Artest, who remains almost universally beloved by
Pacer fans, and who has been under league-sanctioned silence for the
remainder of the year.
If Stern won't listen to Indiana fans, maybe Herb and Mel Simon,
owners of the Pacers, will. I would say with confidence, after talking
with hundreds of fans, that well over 90 percent of them want Artest
back next year.
Reggie Miller retiring is a like a punch to the face to us. Trading
Artest would be like adding a kick in the groin. Please, for the sake
of Indiana, bring Artest back next season so that we may avenge this
heinous crime.
Hammer makes some good points in a not-so-serious tone. Althoug he goes off on tangents, I like reading this guy's writing.
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