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  • NATIONAL REAX: IS SPREWELL INCIDENT A DEFINING MOMENT?

              Latrell Sprewell's attack on P.J. Carlesimo and the
         subsequent one-year suspension from the NBA by Commissioner
         David Stern continues to draw significant attention from the
         print media.  Many writers are using the story to comment on
         the state of the NBA and as an example of the attitude of
         professional athletes towards authority.  A sampling of
         these articles follows (THE DAILY):
              A GANGSTER RAP: In N.Y., Mike Wise wrote the Sprewell
         incident "shook the entire league" and is the "latest in a
         series of troublesome incidents in the N.B.A. involving on-
         court and off-court misconduct by any number of its players. 
         In particular, [it] raised uncomfortable issues for the
         league dealing with race, mutual respect and a generational
         chasm between players and coaches that, at least in some
         instances, may be widening" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/7).  NEWSWEEK's
         Starr & Samuels: "The attack heightens already growing
         concerns about the lack of discipline among the game's
         younger stars" (NEWSWEEK, 12/15 issue).  The CHRISTIAN
         SCIENCE MONITOR's Sam Walker said it "raises important
         questions about changes in society that may be reflected in
         increasingly strained relationships between NBA players and
         coaches" (CSM, 12/8).  TIME's Joel Stein: "It didn't take a
         genius to see all this coming.  Respect for the old
         establishment was clearly fading as huge salaries boosted
         egos and brash wannabe superstars began to elbow their way
         toward the inevitable post-Michael Jordan era" (TIME, 12/15
         issue).  In S.F., Glenn Dickey wrote the NBA "has a serious
         problem, the cult of the individual, and it won't be solved
         by the suspension of Latrell Sprewell."  Dickey argued
         "many" NBA athletes "are out of control ... and they could
         ruin the game" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 12/10).  In San Jose, Mark
         Purdy wrote, "[t]his is not a story that goes beyond pro
         basketball.  It is a story totally about pro basketball,
         which for too long has been too bloated with too much money
         and too much ego" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 12/10).  In
         Charlotte, Ron Green: "It's not the games that are eroding
         the image of the NBA. ... People are fed up with athletes
         behaving like gangsters. ... They are fed up with athletes
         who are out of touch with reality" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER,
         12/11).  In Boston, Bob Ryan: "This is a story with major
         legs.  Before it plays out, the issue of confrontational
         coaches will get a good airing out ... and the idea of
         league authority will be examined and, most of all, the
         issue of race will come to the fore" (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/11). 
              SI'S TAKE: Sprewell is pictured on SI's cover with text
         that reads the "incident raises other issues that could pose
         threats to the NBA's future, issues of power and money and -
         - most dangerous of all -- race."  Analyzing the state of
         the league, SI's Jack McCallum writes when Stern "made the
         command decision to kick Sprewell out of the league for one
         year, it seemed that perhaps the pressures of dealing with a
         star-crossed first month of the season had something to do
         with his draconian decision."  McCallum adds that if the
         arbitrator shortens Sprewell's decision, "it would represent
         Stern's biggest defeat in his glorious 13-year run as the
         commissioner's commissioner" (SI, 12/15 issue).  In his
         piece, "The Race Card," SI's Phil Taylor writes, "[T]here is
         a sense that the league was trying to do more than send a
         message that attacking a coach is unpardonable ... it was
         also trying to send a message to the public that the NBA it
         knows and loves was not becoming too dangerous, 'too
         black.'"  SI's Michael Farber writes Sprewell is "just
         another in the long line of friendly reminders ... that
         sports stand at a precipice.  There's no guardrail.  There's
         no abiding sense of right or wrong, at least beyond what the
         various leagues' vice presidents for violence impose on
         yesterday's headline makers.  The industry of sports has
         gone to hell in a handbasket, but as long as a team or
         corporate logo is on the handbasket, it's O.K." (SI, 12/15).
              PR PLIGHT: In Detroit, Bob Wojnowski: "The NBA is mired
         in the biggest public-relations scandal since baseball
         cancelled the World Series.  If the arbitrator reduces
         Sprewell's punishment significantly, the league loses
         another chunk of power, and the image of players run amok
         grows.  If the arbitrator upholds the ban, Barkley and his
         cohorts will play every card" (DETROIT NEWS, 12/11).  In
         N.Y., Joe Gergen: "What began as a simple assault by an
         athlete against his coach has mushroomed into an incident of
         great consequence not only for basketball but for all
         professional sports in America."  He added the NBA has
         thrown "down the gauntlet to the players to shape up or be
         shipped out, in what may be a defining moment between
         management and labor in professional sports.  Stern believes
         the role of commissioner and the letter of the player
         contract entitles him to demand a standard of conduct on and
         off the court.  He is banking his reputation on it"
         (NEWSDAY, 12/11).  In Orlando, Larry Guest notes a CBS
         SportsLine poll that showed 69% of respondents feel more
         negatively toward the NBA this season: "If Stern is playing
         to the Court of Public Opinion, it's about time someone in
         the NBA considered public sentiment.  Too many players and
         owners don't, and Stern is gamely trying to save them all
         from themselves" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 12/11).  In Oakland,
         Carl Steward wrote that while the NBA's suspension "may be
         vulnerable," it is a "thinly veiled message to the entire
         players' association that it will deal with its image
         problems involving myriad player insurrections as strongly
         as it sees fit" (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 12/10).  But in Chicago,
         Sam Smith writes the Sprewell issue "is about big money and
         who gets it, and who will have the bargaining power when the
         real fight takes place next summer" over the CBA (CHICAGO
         TRIBUNE, 12/11).  In Portland, Dwight Jaynes: "If the
         players get the punishment overturned or shortened, it will
         only serve as one more incident that will bring even more
         fans to management's side -- and against the players -- in
         the inevitable labor strife" (OREGONIAN, 12/10). 
              TIME TO TALK? In Oakland, Monte Poole wrote that
         Johnnie Cochran's role with Sprewell should lead Stern to
         talk with the union.  Stern "knows a fight with Cochran
         could get messy, risking further alienation.  The suggestion
         here to Stern is to consider a compromise" (OAKLAND TRIBUNE,
         12/10).  In S.F., Gwen Knapp wrote the "long-term health of
         the NBA now appears to be at stake" and called on Stern to
         "call a timeout in the hostilities," talk with the player
         reps and "reassure the players" that the one-year
         "suspension (like Sprewell's attack) was an aberration"
         (EXAMINER, 12/10).  In L.A., Randy Harvey writes Stern "has
         forgotten, as baseball's leaders did years ago, that a
         league's most valuable assets are its players. ... Stern's
         reaction, his overreaction, was to establish himself as
         judge and jury."  Harvey: "In the battle for the hearts and
         souls of the fans, the likelihood is that Stern will win and
         the players will lose.  That means the NBA loses.  I thought
         Stern was smarter than that" (L.A. TIMES, 12/11).  In
         Chicago, Jay Mariotti: "[L]ike some radical thinker with a
         hidden agenda, [Stern] went too far" (SUN-TIMES, 12/11). 
              BIG PICTURE: In S.F., Bruce Jenkins: "There's a deep-
         seated anger among athletes from hard backgrounds, an anger
         stemming from racism, injustice and the constant specter of
         violence.  Players will continue to bring that anger into
         the professional ranks" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 12/6).   CA-based
         sociologist Dr. Harry Edwards said, "Eventually, one of
         these kids is going to leave practice -- and he's not going
         to come back and take a swing at the coach.   He's going to
         come back shooting" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 12/6).  
    
    

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