Wednesday was the 10-year anniversary of the “Malice at the Palace” and I still feel the same way as when I first watched it happening live in my living room, jumping around and yelling for the entire neighborhood to hear.
Ron Artest was in the right.
Yes, I said it; Artest was in the right for running after the fan that STARTED the “Malice” and so were his teammates who rushed to his defense in the stands.
The passion of sports fans can sometimes lead to the violation of the boundary that exists between fan and athlete. They might be millionaires who play for their favorite team, but these athletes are grown men who do grown men things. The Pacers that ran up into the stands to defend their teammate were displaying what we are taught as young athletes; you have your teammate’s back. So by going in the stands to protect Artest, they were simply adhering to the lessons that are instilled at a young age in sports. I’m sure some of you are reading this and complaining about how wrong my viewpoint is and that athletes need to control themselves, so I will rationalize.
To reiterate, (male) athletes are grown ass men, which means that they don’t have to tolerate the things that young boys have to tolerate. Some are fathers, some are husbands. Some are white, some are black. Some were born into privilege, others had to fight and struggle to survive. But all are sons, sons that are usually taught not to let others disrespect you as a man or threaten your family.
Most are taught to carry themselves as respectful adults with manners, learning to turn the other cheek as a first option, but there are times when a man must stand up for himself and those he cares about. We are taught to stand up to bullies as children, overcoming fear through displays of courage, vocal defiance or even violence through self-defense. As children of color, these are lessons that are drilled into our heads, and those of us that fully understood and practiced them still carry them with us as we become men. And if you grew up playing streetball, no additional words are needed for what was required on the courts.
Ron Artest is proof positive of this. He grew up in Queensbridge, birthplace of MC Shan, Nas and The Infamous. "The Bridge" is a rough neighborhood but one with families of all types; nuclear or street oriented, they are still families nonetheless. To live in inner-city neighborhoods and gain respect as an athlete, especially on the blacktop, boys must prove themselves by playing with men. You have to be tough. You have to be fearless, playing with a relentless desire to compete with the “big boys” and not back down.
To play high school basketball in New York City, in the Big East and ultimately in the NBA, you must possess the same attitude. The skills have to be developed and refined, but the lessons, confidence and hunger must ascend to another level, one that only 400 other men each season can claim to possess. You’re no longer the biggest, quickest, most powerful or most talented. You’re now part of a team, one that pays you a lot of money for your services each season and one that demands you put your body through physical and mental battles for 82+ games and hundreds of practices each year.
So take this man, a man that grew up with pride and respect from the street; a man that grew up with a family that taught him respect and life lessons that children should learn, and place him in a situation where he’s in his work environment, not bothering anyone, and a person throws a beer on him for no reason. It doesn’t just soil the uniform he’s wearing and isn’t a federal offense.
It’s a violation of his manhood.
As a black man, disrespect of your manhood in one of the most serious violations that can occur. Racism is one thing, but violating a black man’s manhood is another. I would argue that it’s actually worse.
Personally I don’t believe in fighting unless it’s absolutely necessary, but there are a few things that will automatically require an administration of some “act right," one of which is having a beer dumped on me (especially as I don’t drink and never have). When that cup went flying onto Artest, I knew what he felt and I supported his REaction.
If you’re brave enough throw the cup, be brave enough to take what’s coming to you. If you can’t, then think twice before you do it. As for Stephen Jackson, I defer to “Spartacus: Blood and Sand”. Despite his hatred for the Thracian, Crixus came to Spartacus’ rescue during an assassination attempt because he was a fellow gladiator of the House of Batiatus, just as Artest was his teammate on the Pacers.
While the reaction incited a brawl (which I don't support in any way), I agree with his defense of his teammate. It’s refreshing to witness loyalty among today’s modern athlete where money dictates allegiance in too many instances. My opinion is strengthened even further after watching clips from that night of fans throwing beer, popcorn and bottles at the players, cowardly actions from people who wouldn’t dare face those athletes man to man. Artest was unable to defend himself as Chuck Person, Pacers personnel and Palace security surrounded him, preventing him from reaching fans that were, once again, disrespecting him in some of the most vile, cowardly ways.
We all know what transpired after this event. Artest was suspended for the entire season and vilified in the media, being called a thug, an instigator and other racially charged descriptions, both overt and covert. But those of us grown ass men recognized what had went down. We understood and held firm in our convictions. While I’m sure everyone involved has some regret for some of the things that happened that night, I think that any real man will agree that standing up and defending himself is right.
10 years ago was the worst day in my life. Glad to be moved on and working towards stronger black families in our communities!! Love YAl— mettaworldpeace.com (@MettaWorldPeace) November 19, 2014
As a Father of color with two sons, I will use that anniversary as an example of how the world can test you as a man, and how a man must be prepared to stand up for himself and those he cares about. How you must face bullies and let them know you won’t back down despite their size or strength. How the lessons you learn as a boy will determine how you evolve as a man. How you must understand that there are certain situations that require physical action and you must be prepared to recognize them and act accordingly. Most importantly, how your self-respect should never be taken from you.
In the case of the “Malice at the Palace”, we witnessed this all transpire with 45.9 seconds left in the game.
This incident held more significance than many others noted in their stories on the subject Wednesday. As a matter of fact, it’s one of the reasons why my CEO, Keith Clinkscales, founded The Shadow League; to give sports journalism another voice and perspective. So if we had existed ten years ago, Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson, Jermaine O’Neal and that entire night would have been covered differently than other publications.
Now while I have never met Ron Artest, I have always respected him as a player. And after learning about all of the chairtable work that he does, I've come to respect him as a person.
But that night, he earned my respect as a grown ass man.