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Professional basketball sank to a new low when a December 16, 2006 game at New York City’s Madison Square Garden ignited into a violent melee between players from the New York Knicks and the Denver Nuggets.
Ten players were ejected from the game—seven (four from the Knicks, three from the Nuggets) were suspended, with the scoring leader of the National Basketball Association (NBA) banned for 15 games—both teams were fined $500,000 each.
The Knicks coach was suspected of instigating the brawl. The New York Times reported that a video tape seemed to show him issuing a veiled threat to a Nuggets player.
Minutes later, a Knicks player committed a hard foul against his opponent, grabbing him by the neck and tackling him to the floor. This sparked an on-court clash between both teams, which spilled into the front row of the stands.
Referring to his issuing penalties totaling $1 million in fines and a 47-game suspension, NBA commissioner David Stern stated, “It’s a more general message that I’m going to start holding our teams accountable” (AP).
This was the first major fight involving NBA players since the infamous November 19, 2004 brawl involving the Indiana Pacers, Detroit Pistons and sports fans. This embarrassment to professional basketball, which yielded a total of 156 game suspensions, led to efforts to rebuild the NBA’s public image. But enforcing dress codes and requiring players to be courteous to referees cannot change the root cause of the problem—which we addressed in our Jan.-Feb. 2005 article “What’s All the Rage About?”:
“Sports writers, columnists and others have offered their opinions as to why the sudden burst of violence in sports. But have you considered that sports rage is a mirror of today’s society? There was a time when road rage did not exist. There was a time when the phenomenon known as ‘going postal’ was unheard of. These, along with sports rage, are symptoms of a society that is becoming increasingly violent.
“A brief look at our world reveals that people are consumed with material possessions. The image and idea of self is all-important. Many allow their thinking to be ruled by envy, greed, and the lust for power. People are so accustomed to the comforts of ‘the good life’ that if these were taken away, they would not know how to continue living. Most would resort to any means necessary to ensure that they get what they want.”
“The natural result of valuing privileges (blessings) above principles (or laws) is that people will cease to be concerned about the needs and welfare of others.”
The violence long associated with professional hockey and soccer is spreading to other sports. Yet these are merely symptoms mirroring the mindset of an increasingly violent society that constantly seeks to be entertained.
To learn more, read our booklet Did God Create Human Nature?