Rick Mahorn Shouldn't Be Punished, but the WNBA Should Be Embarrassed

Zack MooreCorrespondent IJuly 23, 2008

I just saw this topic while watching 1st and 10 with Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless. They were discussing the scuffle last night at, of course, none other than The Palace in Auburn Hills, during a game between the Los Angeles Sparks and the Detroit Shock. The question posed was whether or not Rick Mahorn should be punished for “pushing” Lisa Leslie to the ground.

In our world now, where media has all these channels to fill with 24 hours of programming every day, people have come to expect this kind of coverage. I am not surprised to have seen this story brought up at least five times already today. This, being the first ever brawl in a WNBA game, it is getting even more coverage than a normal fight in an NBA game would.

I can’t help but be disappointed by Skip Bayless’ response to this question. The response is probably the same as many people have. He thinks that Rick Mahorn should be punished.

Now for those of you who did not see the video, a scuffle broke out at half court between the two teams and the refs and coaches tried to break it up. ESPN put the spotlight on Mahorn for us.

Now, as I watched I saw him go toward Lisa Leslie and a Detroit Shock player and try to break it up. He tried to bring Leslie away from the action and as this 6’10”, 270-pound man tried to walk the 6’5”, 170-pound Leslie away from the action, she fell while trying to get away from his grasp.

As Leslie went to the ground, you can clearly see that Mahorn instinctively reached out a hand as if to say, "Oops, I’m sorry," and almost as an offer to help her up as he is getting pulled away by his assistants. Then another Sparks player jumped in and decided that punching Mahorn on his upper back would probably solve the whole situation. She was later suspended.

Let me first clear up the fact that I am not a Rick Mahorn fan. In fact, all I really know about him is that he was a power forward/center for the Bad Boy Detroit Pistons back in the 1980s. That being said, I feel like this man deserves some kind of defense.

He is currently in his fourth season as an assistant coach for the Shock and they even won a championship after the 2006 campaign.

Let’s just use our common sense to try to determine the kind of behavior Mahorn displays towards women. He has four daughters and I would assume he probably treats other women the same way he would want his daughters to be treated.

Also, in this day and age, with the Isaiah Thomas sexual harassment case and many more like it, a woman can and will sue you if she feels she is even just slightly mistreated.

I find it somewhat incredible that we have all these male coaches in the WNBA and college sports, and that we don’t hear about more sexual harassment suits. Just a random thought.

Now, Lisa Leslie, after the game in an interview with Rebecca Lobo, you look beside yourself when talking about the incident. You talk about how you are a role model. If you are a role model, be one. Don’t try to make Mahorn out to be the bad guy.

She was there, she saw what happened, and I know maybe she has never been in a fight like that before, but in the heat of the battle Mahorn went out to be a peacemaker for everyone.

His job as an assistant coach is to make sure that everyone is safe. He tried to get Lisa out of there because maybe that was the best thing he could do to try and break up the fight.

This is the same man who went up into the stands to try to get Ron Artest off of the fans during the “Malice in the Palace” back in 2004 when he was broadcasting the game.

"Rick Mahorn is known as a peacemaker, from even the brawl we had here with Indiana," Shock head coach Bill Laimbeer contended. "He went out there to get people off the pile, and to get people to stop the confrontation. That's who he is, that's what he does."

By being the face of the WNBA and because of the respect people have for her, she could have downplayed the whole situation in the interview. While I understand her emotions were also running high, she could have helped Rick Mahorn out by simply saying, “I’m sure that he did not mean to push me over, but he did what he did and I do not appreciate it.”

Instead, with her tone of voice and the words she chose to use, you could tell she somehow thought this man who outweighed her by 100 pounds felt the need to put her on her butt. At worst, this was just a case of a man who did not know his own strength. I have to think that there is no way that he meant to push Leslie to the ground.

Because of the media’s focus on Lisa Leslie and Rick Mahorn, no one will ever remember the person who really started this fight.

Plenette Pearson was the woman who decided that she was fed up with the physical—but legal—style of play shown by Candace Parker. Then she decided that she would to try to use the worst tackling form ever to try to get Parker to the ground.

Maybe this is why there has never been a fight in the WNBA before—because of how much dumber it looks than even a fight in the NBA.

I have the utmost respect for Lisa Leslie. She is a three-time Olympic gold medalist, and the first player in WNBA history to win the regular season, WNBA Championship, and All-Star Game MVP awards in the same season. Without players like her, I’m not sure this league would even still be in existence.

I just hope that she will try to be a bigger person and help put this situation behind us.

And in all seriousness, please no more fights in the WNBA. The Detroit Shock’s Cheryl Ford had a bad knee, but hurt her other knee in trying to restrain Pearson. She will actually be out for the rest of this season with a torn ACL. Way to help out your team, Pearson!

This fight was an embarrassment for everyone involved, and especially for the WNBA. They won’t be improving their atrocious TV ratings any time soon.