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The New Fight Club

Imagine being at the office with one minute and 15 seconds left in the day. Then imagine shoving one of your coworkers, and punching another in the face. What would your boss say? What would management do? I would probably be fired, if not arrested. But I work for a magazine, not a basketball team. The first rule of the NBA is you do not talk about the NBA.

Imagine being at the office with one minute and 15 seconds left in the day. Then imagine shoving one of your coworkers, and punching another in the face.

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What would your boss say? What would management do? I would probably be fired, if not arrested. But I work for a magazine, not a basketball team.

The first rule of the NBA is you do not talk about the NBA.

In 2004, Indiana forward, Ron Artest, jumped into the stands and attacked a spectator that he thought threw a drink at him. Last season, San Antonio’s Bruce Bowen kicked Seattle’s Ray Allen in the back. On Saturday, Denver forward Carmelo Anthony shoved Nate Robinson and punched Mardy Collins in the face during a tense game with the New York Knicks.

To history buffs, this might seem like a return to the ’77-’78 season when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar punched Milwaukee’s Kent Benson in the face, and a few months later Los Angeles forward Kermit Washington gave Rudy Tomjanovich a near fatal blow.

To a purist, this must seem embarrassing for basketball. It’s not boxing. It’s not wresting. It’s not even hockey. And there’s no place for violence on a basketball court.

To a businessperson, however, this must seem absurd. At some level, NBA teams are corporations like any other. At some level, they are simply trying to bring in profit. (The Boston Celtics used to be a publicly traded company.) And at some level, the players are employees, the management is responsible, and all of them need to start acting like they are part of a professional organization.

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The only one who seems to understand that is NBA Commisioner, David Stern, who issued suspensions to seven players and fined each team $500,000.

But even his penalties seem lenient compared to what would happen if the incident had occurred in another environment. The longest suspension was 15 games and no fines were levied on the coaches. (The scuffle was prompted by a hard foul that may or may not have been ordered by New York coach, Isiah Thomas.)

Violence in the workplace is not tolerated, so why is it tolerated on a basketball court?