"First, it's very important to me that people understand that I didn't mean for the situation to turn out like it did," Artest said. "It really hurt me to see the children crying on TV, and I think about how it could have been my own kids. I also regret and apologize to fans who were upset by what happened. I have always been a huge fan of the NBA, and I always will be. I have total respect for all the players who play the game, and I respect David Stern, but I don't think that he has been fair with me in this situation.
"I think people know that I have always tried to interact positively with fans in every arena I've been to. I am deeply sorry for the Pacers, people in the state of Indiana and everywhere else in America and around the world where there are NBA fans who have seen me turn things around in my life these past few years."
Pacers forward Ron Artest is led off the court by team consultant Chuck Person after a brawl near the end of Friday night's game against the Pistons. Artest, who jumped into the stands after a fan, should face a lengthy suspension.
(Clarence Tabb Jr. -- Detroit Free Press Via AP)
The NBA Players' Association almost certainly will appeal the decision, sources said, arguing the suspension is unprecedented and that the NBA is blaming players for poor security and out-of-control fans.
Arn Tellem, O'Neal's agent, defended his client in a statement last night, "We will vigorously contest the NBA's outrageous decision."
After being shoved by Wallace, Artest lay on the scorer's table as players from both teams exchanged shoves. Artest was then struck in the face with a cup filled with an unknown beverage. He stormed into the stands and shoved the face of one spectator, who Artest thought had thrown the cup. But that fan still had a beverage cup in his hand as Artest attacked him.
Jackson followed Artest into the stands and both scuffled with at least a half dozen fans. Both players and O'Neal landed blows later when they had moved onto the court. Fans could be seen throwing objects at the players and splashing them with drinks. One fan threw a chair at O'Neal.
Stern said the league will reexamine the adequacy of its security procedures after the incident. The league has few security requirements for dealing with crowd control, according to an NBA executive who asked to remain anonymous. Coaches and referees must be escorted on and off the court and both benches must be guarded. Other than that, security is left to the discretion of the teams.
Pistons officials doubled the number of armed police and added about 25 percent more unarmed security personnel for last night's home game against the Charlotte Bobcats. No incidents were reported.
Carter said the public relations setbacks have tarnished some of the recent successes of the NBA. "This is the blackest eye against a backdrop of other things that have gone very well," Carter said. "Stern has internationalized the league. Companies are going to size things up and try not to make a rash decision. They'll ask themselves 'How is this going to impact the league over a long period of time?' They'll watch carefully to see how good Stern is at crisis management."
Stern gave the Pacers one break. Artest, O'Neal and Jackson can go on the suspended list, letting the team sign players to take their place.