News broke this week that Knicks owner James Doolan was installing microphones on court at Madison Square Garden to monitor on-court discussions between players, polarizing figures and fans alike. Some felt that was a step too far, and that ‘spying’ on Knicks star
Carmelo Anthony was a lack of respect. Though some, including Anthony himself, were in favor of the decision and saw it as an act of protection, to avoid embroiling Anthony in further scandals like the infamous Garnett-Melo incident.
Doolan, for a welcome change, is right on the money with his decision to install microphones in his arena and the NBA should follow his lead and make it mandatory around the league. On-court trash talk is a part of the game, and it rightfully should remain that way, but there are an increasing number of incidents where players take it too far.
Racism, homophobia and personal statements about a player’s family have no place on a basketball court, and any offender should be dealt with appropriately Finding a way to catch more instances of this may unearth some bad short-term publicity for the league, in the case that more instances are discovered because of the more ways to detect them, but in the long-term will be a better step forward for the league.
It is currently against the rules of the league to say offensive, derogatory comments on the court. In 2011, Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 by the league for a gay slur against a referee. The incident was only reported and sanctioned because television cameras for TNT picked up the incident. Had TNT’s cameras not been focusing on Bryant at the time, and had TNT commentator Steve Kerr not drawn attention to the issue, perhaps Bryant would have proceeded unpunished for his comments. Thankfully, there was a solid audio track that caught the Lakers star in the act and the situation was able to be dealt with properly.
In November of the same year, Pistons forward Charlie Villanueva tweeted of a clash he had with Celtics star/resident psychopath Kevin Garnett. Villanueva alleged Garnett called him a ‘cancer patient’ on the court, ridiculing Villanueva – a suffer of alopecia. The allegations against Garnett were never proven, it was a matter of Villanueva’s word against KG’s, and thus no suspension came out of it.
If the NBA is serious about preventing more instances like Bryant’s gay slur, and actually catching players who take trash-talking too far, they would make on-court microphones like Dolan’s as mandatory as a shot clock and video review. It has been implementing in other sports across the world to solve disputes and appropriately allocate blame. On the other side of the world in Australia, a spat between two stars of their domestic cricket competition made headlines across the country. The fiery confrontation was only resolved because of microphones installed on pitch, which captured the instigator, Shane Warne, abusing the batsman who snapped on the next delivery. Had microphones not been in place, it would have been extremely difficult to correctly place the blame for the explosion, who to sanction and what for. Warne’s only crime would have been throwing the ball at an opponent, something he managed to get away with in the hearing as an accident; while Samuels’ motive for throwing his bat down the pitch may have been blown out of proportion and punished more heavily than he deserved.
The debate is not whether comments like Bryant’s, Garnett’s or Anthony’s are out-of line or just a part of the game. Regardless of our personal views, the NBA have made it their stance that what happens on the court can well and truly come off the court if it crosses the line. However, just hoping that a television camera will catch a player uttering the offending phrase and otherwise leaving it for media speculation is not an appropriate or professional way for the league to go about it. The Knicks took the right step to ensure they have hard evidence every time Carmelo Anthony is accused of saying something, and it should become policy that all other clubs do the same.