What can athletes not do?

By Jeffery Armstrong

It pains me to say this, but I think I'm going to have to boycott one of my favorite actors, Mr. Samuel L. Jackson. It looks like I can't pay to see any more of his movies. Let me tell you all the reason why.

I was watching ESPN one night and Jackson was on this SportsCenter piece they run called the "Budweiser Hot Seat." The Hot Seat is a piece where an athlete or a celebrity is interviewed by a SportsCenter anchor and he or she is asked very difficult questions, basically putting him or her on the "hot seat." Jackson was asked about the whole Ron Artest-brawl in the stands situation and he made some comments that really didn't make sense at all. First of all, he said that if he was NBA commissioner David Stern, he would've only banned Artest for some of the season, not the rest of the year. He said that Stern had no right to "deny a man the right to make a living." He also said that Stern might have overreacted because it was a black athlete beating up a white fan.

When I heard that, I had to spew some f-dash-dash-dash words like Ralphie from the movie "A Christmas Story." I was floored. I couldn't believe Jackson, a 1972 graduate of Morehouse College, would make such ridiculous statements. Let's get to his first statement that Stern had no right to deny Artest the right to make a living. Artest was hit with a cup of beer and ran into the stands with no thought of who was in his way and proceeded to beat down an INNOCENT man. Yet, when Detroit Piston center Ben Wallace (someone Artest's size) pushed Artest in the face in the first place, he backpedaled out of the way, wanting no parts of him. When Artest ran into the stands, he knocked people down. He could've hurt a pregnant woman, causing her to lose her baby. He could've broken a child's body part. He could've hit an older man, who might've died because of the shock. All because some loser hit him with a cup of beer. Stern did the right thing, because someone who would risk other people's safety to beat someone half his size to a bloody pulp definitely is unstable and doesn't need to be making a living. The sad thing is Artest still has a job next year - if not with the Indiana Pacers, it will be with some NBA team.

See, if an ordinary man does this, he is fired from his job and his life is ruined. Let's say that I'm covering a basketball game between Jonesboro and Stockbridge at Jonesboro High and a parent sees me and is furious with something I wrote about his or her son or daughter. They're so mad that they throw a cup of soda at me and it gets all over my shirt. Now if I go into the stands, pushing people and randomly swinging on people, especially innocent ones, do you honestly think I'll have a job when I'm through? Of course not. And the people I'm hitting will definitely have me arrested and I'll likely be sued as well. So I'm out of a job, sitting in jail and facing a lawsuit - game over for Jeff Armstrong. Now understand that I'm so thoroughly loved by everyone in Clayton and Henry counties that this scenario won't happen, but you guys get the drift. So what does an athlete have to do to be denied the right to make a living - kill somebody? It's ridiculous.

I certainly can't believe Jackson also played the race card. It doesn't matter what color Artest was; wrong is wrong. I truly believe Stern would've done the same thing if Artest was white, Hispanic, Samoan or Native American. I guess the bottom line for Jackson is that celebrities and athletes have this sort of code that causes them to stick together; just because they make millions for themselves and for their companies, they feel that they can get away with slaps on the wrists when they really screw up. Kudos to Stern for treating those involved in the brawl like regular people would be treated. 'Bout time.

Jeffery Armstrong is a sports writer for the Daily and his column appears on Thursdays. He can be reached at jarmstrong@news-daily.com .