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FEERICK REINSTATES SPREWELL'S CONTRACT AND SHORTENS BAN
Published March 5, 1998
Citing the "issue of fairness," arbitrator John Feerick yesterday reduced Latrell Sprewell's one-year ban from the NBA by five months and reinstated his contract with the Warriors, according to Greg Logan of NEWSDAY. The "sanctions imposed on Sprewell still rank as the most severe non-drug-related penalty in NBA history, but Feerick's decision underlined the extent to which the lines of authority have been blurred in professional sports." Sprewell will be allowed to rejoin the team July 1 and earn the final two years of his contract worth $17.3M. He will lose $6.4M by sitting out this season (NEWSDAY, 3/5). DETAILS: In N.Y., Mike Wise reports that Feerick ruled that the "dual punishment by the team and the league -- termination of the entire contract by the Warriors and a full year's suspension by the league -- was excessive." Feerick also said Sprewell did not violate the "moral turpitude" clause in his contract. Feerick: "I find that a penalty of 68 games is commensurate with the severity of the misconduct ... and conveys the message that violence in the N.B.A. will be dealt with severely but always with due regard to principles of fairness." Feerick also disputed the league's claim that Sprewell's second attack on coach P.J. Carlesimo during a December practice was premeditated: "The record establishes that the anger, if not the rage, that erupted in the first incident fed on itself during the period he spent alone in the locker room between incidents, continuing the fury for the first and connecting the two incidents and actually making them one." Talking with the press, NBA Commissioner David Stern called that finding "incomprehensible" since Sprewell was given time to shower and dress before returning (N.Y. TIMES, 3/5). Feerick also wrote that the "evidence indicates that there is no history of both the league and a team imposing discipline from the same violent conduct, on or off the court. ... This speaks to the issue of fairness, as I see it" ("NBA on TBS," 3/4). RESPONSE: In a teleconference with the media, Stern and other league execs discussed the ruling. Stern: "You cannot choke your boss and hold your job unless you play in the NBA and you're subject to arbitrator Feerick's jurisdiction. ... The arbitrator is a very charitable man, and he made a very charitable decision." Stern added the ruling "missed the opportunity to send a message with respect to the broader standard of all the good things that sports leagues can stand for. On that basis, we're more than a little disappointed." Stern, asked if the ruling was a challenge to his authority: "The stakes have now been considerably raised with respect to what a commissioner will be authorized to do in the face of conduct which flies in the face of our well established policy." Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik: "I have some concern that fans -- and perhaps players -- might unfortunately get that message that no matter what you do, your contract can't be terminated" (THE DAILY). Warriors Owner Chris Cohan: "We were shocked at this decision" (David Steele, S.F. CHRONICLE, 3/5). FROM THE UNION: NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter: "The decision is a victory that is shared by Latrell and the other 400 members of our union. It reaffirms the sanctity of guaranteed contracts in the NBA" ("NBA on TBS," 3/4).