In Detroit Friday, Indiana Pacers’ Ron Artest ran into the bleachers, punching and shoving several fans after he was hit with a cup of beer that further incited a riot between players and fans that had already reaching a boiling point.
Less than 24 hours later, emotions in a heated rivalry game between Clemson and South Carolina ran high and resulted in a 10-minute, bench-clearing brawl in the fourth quarter.
It was a weekend where these two sporting events were more indicative of a professional wrestling pay-per-view event than a pro basketball or college football game. Both fights, regardless of the circumstances, were uncalled for and certainly raise questions about the lack of sportsmanship in sports today.
So how would officials from the NBA, Clemson and South Carolina react to these incidents of brutality and utter stupidity in sports? Would they offer severe punishments or would they write this off as yet another event fueled by the emotions of the moment?
NBA Commissioner David Stern spoke first, Sunday, regarding suspensions to those involved in the riot. Artest was suspended for the remainder of the season, 73 games, without pay, which will cost him about $5 million. Indiana’s Stephen Jackson was suspended 30 games without pay and Jermaine O’Neal, also with the Pacers, was benched for 25 games without pay. Detroit’s Ben Wallace was suspended for six games for shoving Artest following a hard foul. It was Wallace’s shove that cleared the benches and led to the cup of beer being thrown at Artest.
On Monday, Clemson and South Carolina officials announced what punishment would be leveled against their respective programs in the wake of Saturday’s brawl. In an anticipated move, Clemson and South Carolina removed itself from bowl consideration.
At 6-5, both Clemson and South Carolina were bowl eligible and likely would have accepted bids to a December bowl game. In the case of South Carolina, the Gamecocks were expected to receive a bid from the Independence Bowl, according to several media outlets. Clemson most likely would have used a bowl slot left open by conferences struggling to fill all of its bowl commitments.
“This was not a knee jerk reaction to the most unfortunate incident on Saturday,” South Carolina Athletic Director Mike McGee said Monday. “After much consultation in the SEC office, with the presidents, athletics directors and administration of both schools, we felt it was necessary to decline any bowl invitation we would receive this year.”
Clemson Athletics Director Terry Don Phillips issued a similar statement saying why his school will decline a bowl berth. Phillips said the incident “is more than just a football issue.”
“The circumstances surrounding Saturday’s game have impacted the perception of the character and integrity of the university,” Phillips said. “We expect all of our teams and student-athletes to act with class and dignity, and for the most part, we are very proud of our student-athletes and teams. We have outstanding coaches and student-athletes, and we understand that fighting in athletics is not acceptable.”
The decision by Clemson and South Carolina officials should be applauded. Those involved in the brawl should not be rewarded for their actions by receiving a bowl invitation. Bowl invitation usually means increased attention and lavish gifts given to the participants. Who could really argue that Clemson and South Carolina deserve this kind of attention following Saturday’s game?
If Clemson and South Carolina opted to accept the bowl bid, it would have set an unfortunate precedent. It would have meant that Clemson and South Carolina, and the entire college football community, were condoning the activities that took place.
College athletics, regardless of their importance and need to an institution, play an important role in creating an image for that school. Officials realize this with the amount of money, right or wrong, they throw at major Division I programs in an attempt to create an additional marketing tool to compete for perspective students and fundraising dollars. An image that a school condones acts of violence, as seen by Saturday’s game, is not one most school officials want to portray.
Shannon Blosser (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a staff writer with the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in Chapel Hill.