Year in Review: 1997


Re-rank the list of top sports stories of 1997


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Tiger Woods takes
golf world by storm

Pedro Martinez signs
record deal with Sox

Latrell Sprewell
assaults coach, gets ax

Rick Pitino becomes
Celtics coach, president

Bill Parcells quits after Patriots' banner year

Martina Hingis
rules women's tennis

Florida Marlins win World Series

Women's pro hoop
meets with success

A Patriots surprise:
Super Bowl XXXI berth

Wil Cordero charged
with assaulting wife

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Check out the top news stories of 1997
Sprewell pleads case

Banned player seeks leniency

By Peter May, Globe Staff

Barkley says players could boycott All-Star game if sentence isn't reduced

By Michael A. Lutz, Associated Press, 12/10/97

HOUSTON (AP) - Charles Barkley says if the NBA doesn't reduce its punishment of Latrell Sprewell, the league's top stars could boycott the All-Star game or next summer's world championships.

``I think I'd have great support for a boycott,'' Barkley said Tuesday. ``I've talked with several players about it. The league is run by the stars and this is something bigger than all of us.

``It's a chance to make a stand. It (boycott) would be an embarrassment if they (stars) didn't play. If we don't make a stand, it's going to be bad.''

Barkley declined to identify the players he contacted and added that a boycott would be an extreme measure.

``This should be resolved long before the All-Star game, like in two to three weeks,'' Barkley said.

Sprewell's contract was terminated by the Golden State Warriors last Wednesday, costing him the $25 million he was to be paid over the final three years of his four-year deal, for his attack on coach P.J. Carlesimo.

The NBA subsequently suspended Sprewell for one year.

The players' union has filed grievances against the NBA and the Warriors, arguing the penalties were excessive.

Barkley said he and other players didn't condone Sprewell's actions but thought his punishment was too severe.

``It's like (union director) Bill Hunter said: `Does the punishment fit the crime?' '' Barkley said. ``I don't really know what is fair. We could argue that from now on. I might even say this year is fair. But not the next two years.

``Latrell was wrong. No player would say he wasn't. Now the league has to conclude that they are wrong.''

Barkley spoke prior to Tuesday night's game against the San Antonio Spurs after watching Sprewell's televised comments on the incident.

``I thought it was good,'' Barkley said. ``Things were positive and receptive today. I was proud of Latrell for admitting that he was wrong and I was proud of the players for standing behind him.''

atrell Sprewell finally surfaced yesterday, eight days after an attack on his coach cost him his livelihood for a year and wiped out the remaining $25 million of his NBA contract.

Surrounded by a host of attorneys, including Billy Hunter, the head of the NBA Players Association, and Johnnie Cochran, Sprewell apologized to Golden State Warriors coach P.J. Carlesimo and said, ''I totally accept responsibility for what I've done.''

But he also believes he has been unfairly cast as the villain and wants desperately to have his side of the story heard as well as return to the NBA to play the game he loves.

''I am a good person and I've never had any situation like this come up before,'' Sprewell said at a jammed news conference at the Oakland Convention Center. ''I feel 10 years of hard work shouldn't be taken away for one mistake. My career didn't happen overnight and I don't feel it should be taken away overnight.''

Sprewell, 27, a three-time All-Star and the Warriors' leading scorer, at first was suspended for 10 games following what witnesses have said were two attacks on Carlesimo, 15 minutes apart, at the team's Dec. 3 practice. Two days later, the Warriors announced that the remaining three years of Sprewell's four-year, $32 million contract had been terminated for violation of the morals clause.

The following day, NBA commissioner David Stern suspended Sprewell for a full year, by far the harshest suspension meted out in NBA history. The union has filed grievances against the Warriors and the NBA, and the case will go to arbitrator John Feerick, dean of Fordham Law School, early next month.

Among Sprewell's objections, which were seconded by his supporters on the dais, was that the NBA acted too quickly. Cochran called the one-year suspension ''arbitrary and capricious'' and said Sprewell was denied due process. He said he was on board to assist in case there were ''ancillary rights'' that needed to be protected.

Sprewell did not answer questions, citing advice from his attorneys, who are preparing for the arbitration hearing.

''I have to trust their judgment,'' he said. ''There's a lot at stake for me.''

He did say, however, that he felt he had been vilified for his actions and that the league could have sought his version of events before making its decision.

''I never really got a chance to tell my side of the story, to reach out and rectify my situation,'' he said. ''I was willing to meet with the league and with the team. No one wanted to hear what I had to say. That's all I wanted to do: tell what happened.''

The league, through its legal chief, Jeffrey Mishkin, said yesterday that its investigators conducted 23 interviews, including one with Sprewell, following the incident. (Hunter acknowledged that Sprewell had been interviewed but said the tone was too accusatory.) In addition, Mishkin said, ''Prior to notification to the Players Association of Mr. Sprewell's suspension, no request was made by Mr. Sprewell, or anyone acting on his behalf, for a meeting of any kind.''

Several Golden State players were present in a show of support for their former teammate, including Brian Shaw, Felton Spencer, Joe Smith, Muggsy Bogues, Bimbo Coles, and David Vaughn. Robert Horry of the Lakers, who were in town to play the Warriors, also attended. Horry and Sprewell were teammates at the University of Alabama.

The news conference was held in the same building that the Warriors use for practice and began less than an hour after the team finished a workout.

Sprewell spoke for about 10 minutes. Hunter, who did not contest the Warriors' original 10-game suspension, said he had no choice but to get involved once the contract was terminated and Stern issued the suspension. He said 10 teams had called the Warriors regarding Sprewell after the Monday attack and before Stern's suspension.

''Nothing happened between Monday and Thursday,'' Hunter said, adding that the league's action was based on public outcry and the Warriors terminated the contract only when they knew Stern was going to act as he did.

Golden State officials did not comment, and a call to general manager Garry St. Jean went unreturned. However, sources indicated last night that the Warriors acted on their own in terminating Sprewell's contract.

Hunter said he is investigating previous instances of confrontations between players and management. He mentioned that Alvin Robertson of the Pistons assaulted his GM, Billy McKinney, in 1994 and ''nothing was done.''

In response to a question concerning a player boycott of the All-Star Game suggested by Charles Barkley, Hunter said he might ''canvass the membership'' to see if there's sufficient sentiment for it. Barkley has been outspoken in attacking the league for the severity of the punishment.

Sprewell's lawyer, Arn Tellem, who over the weekend suggested that race had played a part in the punishment, backed off that yesterday. But he did not back off his criticism of Carlesimo, whose confrontational style, he feels, helped cause the incident.

''No one condones what Latrell did, but there are real questions if there are any limits what a coach can do and are there any rights for the player,'' Tellem said. ''In other jobs, the employee can seek other employment. Here he cannot. The commissioner has denied him the right to work for one full calendar year. That has tremendous implications.''

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

This story ran on page F01 of the Boston Globe on 12/10/97.
© Copyright 1997 Globe Newspaper Company.

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