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NBA's Punishment Of Metta World Peace Shines Light On Player Safety

Alix Fitch |
April 25, 2012 | 4:26 p.m. PDT

Staff Writer

World Peace (15) will have to sit out the Lakers' first-round series, likely against Denver. (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)
World Peace (15) will have to sit out the Lakers' first-round series, likely against Denver. (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)

Metta World Peace, the artist formerly known as Ron Artest, has managed to create a name for himself that has been far from original meaning. Sunday night's matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Staples Center was one that put World Peace, as well as the Lakers, in a difficult position regarding their status for the remainder of the season. During the second quarter, World Peace had successfully executed a dunk with just over one minute remaining when he had viciously elbowed Oklahoma City Guard, James Harden, in the side of the head.

Harden, the third-leading scorer for Oklahoma City, was diagnosed with a concussion as a result of the incident. World Peace was ejected from the game but the Lakers still managed to pull out a win in double overtime, 114-106.  Within a short amount of time, the replay footage of the episode was reaching far distances across the country, where audiences demanded an explanation from the player and his actions.

On Tuesday afternoon, the NBA had decided on a seven-game suspension as punishment for World Peace, which has left the Lakers to rethink their starting line-up entering into playoff season. Following the incident, Thunder players had expressed how their leading concern was for the status of their fellow player and his condition, whereas the Lakers were seen to be avoiding the position of defending World Peace for his inexplicable actions.

Oklahoma City center Kendrick Perkins had a few choice words about what had happened. "It's just not good for our league, especially on a national TV game," Perkins said. That highlight’s going to just keep getting played. We don't want to be labeled as that type of league."

Metta World Peace himself holds the longest ban for an on-court incident in the history of the NBA with an 86-game suspension from the 2004 incident in which he jumped into that stands at Palace Of Auburn Hills to fight some fans. With this, along with a number of different instances, players in the league are becoming increasing more susceptible to the hate and disapproval from fans across the nation for the amount of rough behavior that has been displayed on the court.

It has become a resurfacing concern for the league and how this impacts the experience that fans have with the image of the sport. NBA Commissioner David Stern addressed the issue by saying, "the concussion suffered by James Harden demonstrates the danger posed by violent acts of this kind, particularly when they are directed at the head area."

Faced with an issue that is not to be taken lightly, the NBA is beginning to take seriously measures to tackle the issue so that they may avoid any further circumstances.  Without controlling the situation, the league could take on the image of fostering brutal and malicious individuals in a way that is damaging to the sport and values that the fans have for the industry.

Harden did not play in Wednesday's game against Denver. (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)
Harden did not play in Wednesday's game against Denver. (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)
After the verdict came out about Metta World Peace's punishment, there has been an overwhelming number of fans and sports commentators alike that have analyzed the situation to form their own thoughts on what "truly" happened on the court. Many see this incident as far from being a mistake by World Peace. The public is expressing their hope that the NBA puts it foot down to prevent any future situation that negative affects both player safety and the image of the sport.

In an ESPN.com poll, 52 percent of the 88,000 respondents thought the seven-game suspension was too lenient, while 35 percent thought it was just the right amount. For many, the idea of missing seven games is a minimal punishment compared to the damage that could have been done to Harden. These days, fans and non-fans alike demand the utmost form of justice when it becomes a question of safety.

Though the idea of a seven-game suspension sounds light to a majority of onlookers, it could mean the loss of a shot at a Championship title for the Lakers, who will be without their starting forward entering the playoffs. World Peace's teammates had little to say about the outcome, but instead they remain focused on what lies ahead for their team, which stands as the No. 3 seed in the West.

Guard Kobe Bryant said that the situation was "an unfortunate one" and that "Metta needs to focus on himself, he just has to be prepared, and when he comes back, just step right in and be ready to go." Confident as this may appear, there is still much to be said about the image that World Peace has created for himself and his team, one that will take much more than a successful winning season.


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