Crimes On The Field Are Different?

From Pedro throwing Zimmer to the past couple weeks of flare ups, professional sports have their fair share of physical confrontations. Lately, they have me wondering why the actions of professional athletes during a professional sporting event are viewed as being totally and completely different to an identical action occurring in almost any other situation. Let me share some examples.

A hockey player by the name of Matt Carkner attacked a player on the New York Rangers (video here). It was not a “hockey play.” Once the player was down on the ice, Carkner continued punching him. If this were to happen in a high school hockey game (in those crazy places that have high school hockey) the offending player would face serious punishment, potentially legal. In this case, Carkner was kicked out of the game and suspended for just one more. A Rangers player was also booted from the game and suspended, which seems silly, but that’s neither here nor there. The statement made here is that in the National Hockey League you can attack someone and face minor consequences.

In the second to last  regular season game for the Los Angeles Lakers, Ron Artest (legally Metta World Peace, but I refuse to call him by his non-name name) intentionally elbowed James Harden in the back of the head, leaving him with a concussion. Artest was ejected from the game (just shortly before a miraculous Lakers comeback), and received a seven game suspension, which he is still serving. Luckily, Harden was able to return for the Thunder’s first postseason game.

Most considered the seven-game suspension stiff, but in any other situation elbowing someone in the head would draw much steeper consequences. If someone was to do that on the blacktop, they very well could be sued. Obviously, if it was an accidental elbow, even if it was still the offender’s fault that’d be a different story, and there is some aspect of toughness that dictates not litigating over every ridiculous incident, but the option would be viable. What we have here though is a professional athlete intentionally striking another on the head and injuring him. The violent attacker essentially received the equivalent of out-of-school suspension.

Now what really makes this interesting is that if you go back to the “Malice at the Palace” when then Ron Artest infamously went into the stands to start a giant brawl. Before he made that mistake though, there was a fight on the court.

“With less than a minute left in the game, a fight broke out between players on the court. After the fight was broken up, a drink was thrown from the stands at then Pacers player Ron Artest while he was lying on the scorer’s table.” -Wikipedia

This portion of the event basically doesn’t matter because they’re professional athletes so they are seemingly allowed to physically assault each other. What happened next though was worthy of legitimate punishment.

“Artest then entered the crowd and sparked a massive brawl between players and fans. The repercussions led to nine players being suspended without pay for a total of 146 games, which led to $11 million in salary being lost by the players. Five players were also charged with assault, and eventually sentenced to a year of probation and community service. Five fans also faced criminal charges and were banned from attending Pistons home games for life.” -Wikipedia

My final point comes from one of the most despicable baseball players in the league, Delmon Young. Evidently he pushed someone over while yelling anti-Semitic slurs. Pretty bad and especially offensive to me because of my Jewish ancestry, but is it worse than elbowing a man in the head and concussing him? Delmon Young is currently on the restricted list while the legal process runs its course. He could go to jail, but he’ll most likely get some sort of community service which is deserving. In addition to real legal consequences, MLB will likely dish a suspension after the remaining details are released. Obviously, he is innocent until proven guilty and there is some murkiness in the situation that evidently involved a homeless man, but the greater point is this: if he had pushed over a baseball player mid-game and yelled racial insults at him then would he face any legal action?

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3 thoughts on “Crimes On The Field Are Different?

  1. This brings up a good discussion. I think the reason why criminal charges are so rarely brought in violent situations on the field is because the games usually have a way of policing themselves. In football, baseball and hockey, violence is permitted, to varying degrees. If a player goes too far, they can be suspended.

    It’s when the athletes attacks someone off-the-field, who is an ordinary citizen, that problems are created. That’s why Young is going to be penalized much stiffer than your ordinary athlete who gets into trouble on the field.

  2. Oh yeah, you’re absolutely right. I’m not saying a dirty hit should be punishable by law, but there is a difference between a dirty hit like what Bynum did in the playoffs last year which was appropriately punished and attacking someone. Just because they both happen on the court doesn’t mean they’re the same.

    I’m a Lakers fan. I don’t want Artest suspended. We need him. It just seems odd to me that he can elbow a man into concussion and be back in two weeks like nothing ever happened. Just seems strange and worthy of discussion.

    I didn’t even mention Rajon Ronda, but I hope he gets suspended for a while.

  3. Ha, thanks for giving hockey a shout. Oh wait, you had a snide comment about “crazy places that have high school hockey?” Appreciation RECANTED.

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