• 70°

Leagues must clamp down on ‘bad boy’ athletes

Professional basketball players charge into the stands to punchfans after an on-court brawl between the Indiana Pacers and DetroitPistons spills into the spectators’ seats.

A Clemson University football player kicks a South Carolinaplayer in the head while he’s lying on the field as the in-staterivals stage a slugfest.

A Wayne County High School football and one of his own coacheshave an altercation following a hard-fought loss in a state playoffgame.

That all three incidents happened within just 24 hours (in fact,that they happened at all) is cause for concern and suggests thatdiscipline and order must be restored to the world of professional,college and scholastic sports.

And while team and league officials took prompt disciplinarymeasures, the players’ attitudes and actions in the days since istruly disturbing.

“You hate that it happens,” Clemson quarterback CharlieWhitehurst said, “but it does sometime.”

Pacers forward Ron Artest, suspended for the rest of the season,had a similar attitude about the widely televised brawl duringwhich he punched several Detroit fans in the face.

Their nonchalant attitude over what, in reality, is a big dealis troubling.

Even more so is the prideful defiance of Clemson tailback YusefKelly, who was seen on tape kicking a South Carolina player -already down on the field – in the head as the teams fought. Hethen hoisted a South Carolina player’s helmet above his head,paraded around the end zone then tossed it into the stands.

Kelly told reporters after the game he had no regrets and hopedhis helmet toss would make him famous.

“I know the die-hard Clemson fans,” he said. “They are going tolove it. … They’ll have something to remember me by.”

Kelly is right. His actions should make him famous – famous forbeing kicked off the team for bad behavior.

Unfortunately, that won’t happen.

Although Clemson and South Carolina both have turned downpost-season bowl bids – a move for which they are to be commended- Clemson officials have said no further disciplinary action willbe taken against the players involved in the brawl.

Missing out on a bowl game, they figure, is punishment enough.While it’s a start, severe punishment for individual players is inorder, too.

Whether professional athletes are role models for kids has longbeen debated. The truth is – whether the sports starts want to beand whether parents want them to be – they are.

Knowing this, one can’t help but wonder how violent outbursts byprofessional “bad boy” athletes weighed on the mind of the WayneCounty teen as he took a swing at an assistant coach after histeam’s loss to the Brookhaven Panthers a week ago.

And while that may help explain his actions, it certainly can’texcuse them. School officials, I trust, have taken or will takeappropriate action.

The testosterone-driven, emotion-filled world of sports isperhaps ripe for such altercations, but they just can’t be allowedto continue unchecked.

Fights have long been a tradition in professional hockey, buteven there, league officials have clamped down on some altercationsafter Todd Bertuzzi of the National Hockey League’s VancouverCanucks broke the neck of the Colorado Avalanche’s Steve Moore inMarch.

If the NHL, after years of on-the-ice brawls, can turn a sterneye toward fighting, other sports can as well.

Fans attend games and viewers watch them on television becausethey enjoy the action. If they wanted to see a fight, they’d attenda boxing match.

Players, coaches and league officials across the board must takecontrol of themselves and their teams before they alienate thefans, sponsors and advertisers they depend on for survival.