THE SPREWELL DECISION
Sports fans have long known that winning and losing aren't
always determined by the performance of the competitors.
Sometimes the referee just blows a crucial call. That's what
happened on March 4 when arbitrator John Feerick, dean of
Fordham Law School, reduced Latrell Sprewell's punishment for
assaulting Golden State Warriors coach P.J. Carlesimo on Dec. 1.
In an example of tortured reasoning, Feerick reinstated the
final two years of Sprewell's contract, worth $17.3 million,
which had been terminated by the Warriors. He also reduced
Sprewell's NBA-imposed suspension from one year to seven months.
We've seen more Holmesian legal wisdom displayed on The People's
The law and common sense aren't always traveling companions, of
course, but in Feerick's decision they weren't even headed in
the same direction. Feerick ruled largely in Sprewell's favor,
even though he agreed with the league on several key points,
e.g., that, contrary to what Sprewell claimed, the NBA did give
him due process and that the coupling of the NBA suspension and
Golden State's contract termination wasn't double jeopardy.
So how did Feerick justify reducing the punishment so
drastically? He ruled that Sprewell's act showed no
premeditation, even though Sprewell choked Carlesimo and then
went to the locker room, showered, changed clothes, returned and
pushed his way though a crowd of players to attack him a second
time. Feerick also declared that the assault didn't violate the
moral turpitude clause in the standard NBA contract, in part
because Sprewell didn't inflict serious bodily harm, giving new
meaning to the term "no blood, no foul."
But commissioner David Stern can hardly play the wronged party.
Feerick pointed out that there was no precedent for the severity
of the original punishment. While players were head-butting
referees and throwing towels in coaches' faces during the last
few years, the league seemed more interested in controlling spin
than behavior, handing out light suspensions and fines and
shrugging off the incidents as the actions of a few bad apples.
So maybe the NBA got what it deserved. You can hardly say the
same about Sprewell. Those who agree with Feerick point out that
Sprewell will lose $6.4 million in salary, as if money were the
crux of the case. The issue was whether a team should be able to
fire a player for assaulting his coach. The answer should be
yes, but Feerick says no, so that's how it is. You already know
that the real world isn't always fair. What makes you think
sports are any different? --Phil Taylor
Boxing's Bad Week
MAIN EVENT: TYSON-KING
In a hair-raising incident in Mexico City last week, boxing
promoter Don King and several companions were accosted near
their hotel by armed robbers, who relieved them of their
watches. King lost a $100,000 Rolex--or, as he referred to it,
"a shiny doodad...a gaudy little thing that sparkles, nothing of
significance." Two days later King got hit again, and this time
more than a mere bauble was at stake.
Last Thursday, in a U.S. district court in New York City, former
heavyweight champion--and longtime King meal ticket--Mike Tyson
filed a 29-page lawsuit against King, claiming that King had
cheated him out of more than $100 million. Tyson wants the court
to void the 1994 contract that he says he was duped by King into
signing. The suit charges that King double-dipped into Tyson's
earnings as both promoter and manager; that he paid Tyson's
managers of record, John Horne and Rory Holloway, $4.3 million
each out of Tyson's money (in addition to their regular 10%
apiece); and that he struck improper deals with the MGM Grand
Hotel in Las Vegas and the Showtime cable network that brought
Tyson nothing while enriching King. Said the promoter, "There's
no merit to this lawsuit at all."
The King dustups were only the main events of a week rocky even
for boxing, a sport known to mug itself in dark alleys on a
regular basis. The undercard:
--According to a story in The Washington Post, Tyson, perhaps
itching for action during his ear-biting-induced suspension from
the ring, had a predawn run-in with a woman at a Washington,
D.C., eatery. Witnesses said that when Tyson refused another
fan's photo request, the woman asked why. Tyson cursed the
woman, who then threw coffee in his face, sending the ex-champ
"out of control," breaking glasses and crockery. Tyson
reportedly apologized to other patrons and left "a wad of bills"
before departing in a limo. Tyson could not be reached for
comment, but his new advisor, Shelly Finkel, said that the
incident, "if it happened," had "been blown out of proportion."
THREE COLOR ILLUSTRATIONS: FRED HARPER [Drawing of John Feerick; Latrell Sprewell; David Stern]
COLOR PHOTO: GEORGE TIEDEMANN HAPPY DAYS In 1989, Tyson wasn't worried about King's handling of his cash. [Don King and Mike Tyson, who holds bundles of cash]
COLOR PHOTO: BILL SIKES/AP [Dominik Hasek in game]
COLOR PHOTO: NEIL LEIFER BRUTE 66 Nitschke, who was the alltime Packer backer, could be a real softie off the field. [Ray Nitschke]
TWO COLOR PHOTOS [Antique golf balls]
They Said It
Chicago Cubs closer, contending that his far-less-than-buff
physique doesn't make him injury-prone: "I've never seen anyone
on the DL with pulled fat."