WNBA: Shock-Sparks Suspensions Shocking

David CohenSenior Analyst IJuly 24, 2008

As everyone knows, the Los Angeles Sparks and Detroit Shock got into a little brouhaha at the end of a highly contested basketball game the other night.

The two most widely recognized players in the league, Lisa Leslie and Candace Parker, were both major players in the altercation. Parker was the spark plug after a foul with about ten seconds left, and threw a player to the floor after being knocked down. Leslie was shoved by Shock Assistant Coach Rick Mahorn.

WNBA President (or first lady) Donna Orender issued a statement about the event:

“The events Tuesday, however, were inexcusable and in no way indicative of what the league stands for. We hold our players to a very high standard and these suspensions should serve notice that the behavior exhibited at the end of Tuesday’s game will not be tolerated.”

In other words, she’s going to bring down the hammer.

Shock forward Pienette Pierson will be suspended four games for her actions that “initiated and escalated the altercation." She is the one who basically boxed out Parker until she was knocked down.

Rick Mahorn will be suspended two games for “escalating the altercation.”

These two were understandable suspensions. Pierson started the chain of reaction, and Mahorn pushing down a womaneven though it was not his intent to do sodoesn’t look good for the league and had to be dealt with in some manner.

Three more Shock players: Kara Braxton, Tasha Humphrey, and Elaine Powell, will be suspended one game for “leaving the area of the bench during an on-court altercation.”

Sparks forward Sheri Sam will be suspended one game for the same reason.

Sparks guards Shannon Bobbitt and Murriel Page will be suspended two games for “leaving the area of the bench and becoming physically involved in an on-court altercation.”

The league is still going strong. That just leaves the three biggest figures in the altercation: Leslie, Parker, and DeLisha Milton-Jones, who punched Mahorn twice in the back. Now it’s time for Orender to finish the deal.

Apparently the steel hammer turned into an inflatable one. And it was deflated.

All three players will be suspended just one game for “throwing a punch.”

I’m confused on several levels.

According to the WNBA, taking a couple steps off away from the bench = throwing a punch. Is my calculator broken!?

Mrs. President, you cannot say you are going to “serve notice” against this type of behavior by handing out one game suspensions for the very act you are trying to reprimand.

Pierson got four games. Parker initially reacted when fouled late in the game to start the tension. She retaliated by throwing Pierson to the ground, which led to the melee. She should get the same amount of games.

Milton-Jones also got off easy. Mahorn’s actions were unintentional. Milton-Jones’s actions were. She deliberately punched a coach. Since the WNBA is calling all of the actions despicable, Milton-Jones deserves at least the same suspension as Mahorn.

I think she should get at least four games. Mahorn is an authority figure and Milton-Jones helped to escalate matters by hitting him. What kind of message does it send to basically sanction player-coach combat?

Just imagine if it were the NBA’s Palace Brawl and someone on the Pistons had punched Pacers coach Rick Carlisle. He would have been suspended longer than Artest. Just ask Latrell Sprewell.

Also, I don’t remember Lisa Leslie throwing anything during the altercation. If you are going to suspend someone, get it right.

The WNBA talked a big game, but when it came time to act the punishment was not fair. The big name players were treated differently from everyone else.

And as Bill Walton would say, “This is a disgrace!”

I’m just amazed the dirtiest player in his day, Bill Laimbeer, kept his hands clean. Something must be wrong with him. Why else would he be going around signing 50 year old ESPN broadcasters?

But seriously, the WNBA finally got a chance to set an example in the spotlight. They shot a brick. Instead, Orender and her league showed why the WNBA is a footnote in American sports.


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