Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Malice at The Palace
The Malice at the Palace is one of four names given to the on-court altercation at a National Basketball Association game between the Detroit Pistons and their arch-rivals, the Indiana Pacers on November 19, 2004 at The Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Michigan which spread into the stands. This disturbance has led to serious repercussions for those involved from both the NBA and the legal authorities. This incident is also known as The Basket Brawl, The Palace Brawl and The Motown Melee.
The incident took place in a game that many had looked forward to for some time. Five months earlier, the Pistons had defeated the Pacers in an intense Eastern Conference Finals series on their way to the NBA title. The November 19 contest would be the first rematch between the two rivals, and emotions figured to run high on both sides.
The brawl began with less than a minute remaining in the game, with Indiana winning 97-82. Pistons forward-center Ben Wallace drove to the basket and was about to put up a shot when Pacers forward Ron Artest fouled him hard. Wallace, upset at being fouled hard when the game's outcome had effectively been decided, responded by shoving Artest. Several players from both teams joined the fray, resulting in an altercation.
The focus of the on-court scuffling gradually moved away from Artest, and he then climbed the scorer's table and laid down on it. Angered by Artest taunting him and pretending to give a radio interview while lying on the table, Wallace threw a towel at him. A spectator (believed to be John Green; he awaits trial) then threw a cup of beer at Artest. Artest then responded by charging into the stands and confronting the man he believed responsible (which wasn't Green), triggering a violent response from dozens of spectators, as Pacers Stephen Jackson and David Harrison followed Artest to assist him. Several spectators were struck by Pacers players, while a few retaliated with punches of their own (including Green) and others threw cups of beer and soda at Pacers players. Two spectators angrily walked onto the court, and one of them confronted Artest, who was making his way back to the court. Artest punched him, starting another melee that eventually included several Pacer players, most notably Jermaine O'Neal, who was shown on video punching the second fan, later identified as Charlie Haddad .
The game was abandoned with 45.9 seconds remaining, and the Pacers were awarded a 97-82 win. More beer, soda, ice, popcorn and a chair were thrown at Pacers players and other personnel as they were escorted from the court. No players from either team spoke to the media before leaving the arena.
It was estimated that nine spectators were injured, though none of the injuries were thought to be serious. Two of the injured were taken to a hospital.
On November 21, the NBA announced the following suspensions:
- Ron Artest: Remainder of the season (73 games in the regular season and any playoff games)
- Stephen Jackson: 30 games
- Jermaine O'Neal: 25 games (later reduced on appeal to 15 games)
- Ben Wallace: six games
- Anthony Johnson: five games
- Reggie Miller, Chauncey Billups, Elden Campbell , Derrick Coleman: one game each
The suspensions of Artest, Jackson and O'Neal were appealed by the NBA Players Association . The union has succeeded in reducing long bans in the past, including a lifetime suspension initially given to Latrell Sprewell; it was reduced to one season.
The Auburn Hills Police Department and Oakland County Prosecutor's Office are also investigating and are considering filing criminal charges against the players and spectators involved. In addition, legal actions may be filed in the civil courts; at least two injured spectators filed lawsuits claiming monetary damage. The final legal consequences of this incident for those involved may take months to determine.
On November 20, the Pistons announced they would increase the presence and visibility of security in their arena. The number of armed policemen was to be doubled to about 20, and the number of unarmed security was to be increased by 25 percent. In addition, a protective cover was to be added to the tunnel connecting the court to the dressing rooms. Pistons CEO Tom Wilson said his club was considering banning the spectators involved from the Palace, and revoking their season tickets .
On November 30, Oakland County Prosecutor David Gorcyca announced that he will seek charges against all players involved in the melee, "Whoever was involved in fisticuffs will be charged, regardless if they were wearing a jersey. It's obvious there were several Pacer players and fans that dealt blows." Pacers players have formally refused to cooperate with the investigation.
On December 2, Green and Haddad were permanently banned from all future events at the Palace.
On December 8, five Pacers and seven Pistons fans were charged, O'Neal was charged with two counts of assault and battery; Artest, Harrison, Jackson, and Johnson were charged with one count each. Five of the fans received one count of the same charge; Bryant Jackson , a 35-year-old fan with prior criminal convictions, was also charged with felony assault, allegedly for throwing a chair. The two fans that were on the court, were also charged for trespassing. Gorcyca showed the incident in a press conference, to explained why the people were being charged.
Later in December, the union's appeal of the longest suspensions went before a federal arbitrator. In a decision handed down on December 22, the arbitrator upheld the full length of all suspensions except that of O'Neal, which was reduced to 15 games. The NBA appealed to federal court; on December 24, a judge issued a temporary injunction allowing O'Neal to play before a full hearing on the NBA's appeal.
The Pistons and Pacers next played on December 25 at the Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, with the Pistons winning 98-93 without further incidents. Wallace played, as he had long since completed his suspension. O'Neal, who had already served 15 games of his suspension, also played due to the injunction. Artest and Jackson were still under suspension and unable to participate.
O'Neal played in two more games, against the New Orleans Hornets and Charlotte Bobcats, before the NBA's case was brought before the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, New York on December 30. Judge George B. Daniels upheld the arbitrator's view, stating in his 21-page decision, "Fighting with or striking a fan has never been characterized as conduct on the playing court." The heart of the NBA's argument against O'Neal was that under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Commissioner David Stern had absolute authority to pass out suspensions and hear appeals for all on-court incidents. But because O'Neal's behavior was classified by the arbitrator and the judge as an off-court incident, arbitration was allowed under the CBA, and thus the arbitrator was within his rights to hear the case.
While the Pacers therefore regained the services of O'Neal earlier than expected, no further appeals were made to reduce Artest and Jackson's suspensions. The distinction cited by many was that while Artest and Jackson had entered the stands to fight, O'Neal had remained on the court. Jackson returned to the Pacers' lineup on January 26 2005.
It was later revealed that Auburn Hills police planned to charged additional fans, once they are positively identified.
On March 25, 2005, the Pacers played at the Palace for the first time since the brawl. The game was delayed 90 minutes after a series of bomb threats that were aimed at the Pacers locker room. No explosive devices were found. Two of the key figures in the original incident missed the game, as Artest was still suspended and O'Neal had an injured shoulder.
Commentators, and those familiar with the event outside the sports media, appear to be divided over the issues of who should primarily be blamed for instigating the incident, and what sanctions they should receive. A commonly-voiced opinion is that there is never any valid excuse for a player to go into the stands, no matter how intense the provocation may have been. Some have also articulated the view that the more physical - and arguably "dirty" - style of play that prevails in the NBA's Eastern Conference (to which both the Pistons and Pacers belong), as opposed to the faster, "show-time" style favored by most Western Conference teams, may have been a contributing factor in the melee.
Similar incidents occurring the same week
The Sunday before the fight at The Palace, November 14, the National Football League's Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts played each other at the RCA Dome, the latter team's home field. Late in the third quarter with the Colts leading 35-7, Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning threw an 80-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dallas Clark (attempting long passes with that large a lead that late in a game is generally regarded as a breach of the sport's informal code of etiquette, which frowns upon one team intentionally humiliating another). Then, with less than two minutes remaining in the game, Colts cornerback Von Hutchins intercepted a pass thrown by Texans quarterback David Carr and returned it 77 yards for a touchdown to make the score 49-14 (which turned out to be the final score of the game). Upon reaching the goal line, Hutchins taunted the Texans players, whereupon both benches emptied and a mass altercation resulted (due to the nature of the equipment worn by American football players, however, serious injuries during clashes of this sort are very rare, and none occurred in this one). Unlike at The Palace, however, there was no inappropriate behavior by any of the fans, more than likely because the game took place at the home stadium of the team that instigated the incident. The same two teams played again on December 12 at Houston, and there was no trouble in that game, won by the Colts 23-14.
The day after the fight at The Palace, November 20, there were two fights (as in the aforementioned NFL game, only between players, though) in a college football game between the University of South Carolina and Clemson University—one before the game, and a massive 10-minute scrum during the 4th quarter in which state troopers had to get involved, but no fans got onto the field. Though not directly related to what happened in Detroit the night before, Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden , son of Florida State University head coach Bobby Bowden, said his players had stayed up the night before, watching what had happened in Detroit. There are still questions as to if the two fights were somewhat inspired by the Detroit brawl. To make matters worse, the fights overshadowed the last game Lou Holtz participated in as South Carolina head coach, as he retired after this season, and handed the coaching reins to Steve Spurrier. Clemson won the game 29-7.
The Atlantic Coast Conference, the conference Clemson plays in, and the Southeastern Conference, the conference South Carolina plays in, reviewed the tapes of both incidents before handing out proper punishments to players. However, both schools imposed a punishment of their own on November 22, by saying they would reject any invitation to a bowl game because of the fights. The SEC and ACC have since suspended six players from each school for their first games of the 2005-2006 season.
- NBA Hoops Online site has a video of fight
- Commissioner David Stern's initial statement regarding the brawl - November 20, 2004
- Commissioner Stern's press release regarding sanctions to the players involved - November 21, 2004
- MSNBC - "Fans as much to blame as players for brawl"
- Video download (Windows Media format, 27.1 MB)
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