Union Must Decide Who it Represents

If the NBA’s players’ association actually appeals the suspensions levied this weekend against noted bad boys Stephen Jackson and Ron Artest, then they’re doing a disservice to the rest of its constituency.

I get it. You’re a union. And unions protect their membership without fail. There’s something admirable in that for sure, but the positives are grossly outweighed by the negatives.

After all, there are no absolutes in life, and this is one case where the players’ association should realize that discretion is truly the better part of valour.

Jackson and Artest were each suspended seven games on Saturday for off-the-field incidents: Artest’s May misdemeanor domestic violence charge and Jackson’s June shoot-‘em-up outside of an Indiana strip club. And while Jackson, for once, has shown grace in accepting his punishment, his union representation is already floating trial balloons about the inherent unfairness of these punishments in light of past precedents.

Let’s just hope those trial balloons pop — and soon.

Maybe, when compared with previous suspensions for off-the-field transgressions, these suspensions are a tad harsher. But the union has to understand that this is the dawn of a new era in sport.

There’s a huge backlash against thug culture. What started innocently as the big, bad Raiders, morphed into the more gangster lean of the NBA. Tatooed bad boys with a heart of gold like Alan Iverson, for a while, were the poster boys of the league. Long gone were the days of crew cuts and nut huggers — piercings, ink, and baggy shorts were the style and the kids ate it up.

But now the pendulum’s shifted too far. Not a week goes by without some NFL player getting busted for some sort of transgression — usually involving alcohol, violence, or both — a fact that inspired ProFootballTalk.com to set up a Days Without an Arrest counter. NBA players have gone from Thug-lite Iversons to full-on, remorseless punks like Artest and Jackson. It wasn’t that long ago that these two were at the centre of a disgraceful display in Detroit — and they apparently haven’t learned their lesson.

Yes, the NBA Players Association has a mandate to protect its membership. But who needs protecting here? Two childish morons who think slapping women or endangering innocents with a firearm are just fun and games, or the majority of hard-working NBAers who are going to have their reputations tarnished simply through guilt by association?

Artest and Jackson have had chance after chance. Of course, this is also an association who felt that a suspension for a player choking his coach was unjust, when in truth jail time would have been warranted.

It’s a changing world. People are fed up with the inmates running the asylum. The average sports fan isn’t sitting on the couch, polishing his 9 and running down a list of people in whom they’re going to bust a cap. They’re not making it rain at the local adult emporium and then getting their posse to rough up a poor kid just for looking at them cross-eyed.

No, they’re at home with their kids, looking for an evening’s diversion with their kids. They’re looking to root for their favourite club without wondering if they’re supporting drug runners, rapists, and murderers. They’re looking to the LeBron Jameses, Shaquille O’Neals, and Ladainian Tomlinsons of the world to entertain them.

Unfortunately, too often they’re getting the Artests, Jacksons, Tank Johnsons, and Michael Vicks. Eventually — and arguably it’s already started – they’re going to get fed up and show their displeasure with the only resource they have at their disposal — their money.

When the fans leave, so too do the mega-million salaries — and that impacts each and every player, not just the goons who brought this cloud of negativity.

So the NBA players’ association needs to make a choice. Who is it protecting — the majority of players who are solid, hard-working players who are representing the union’s membership to its fullest, or the few bad seeds who are taking advantage of their position and poisoning the rest of the league with their selfishness.

A union is supposed to be a collective working together to support each other’s best interests. So before they rush to a negative judgment, maybe the union should consider in whose interests Artest and Jackson have been working.

2007© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

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