According to an article by Bradley MacLean, Los Angeles Lakers forward Metta World Peace is no more likely to face criminal charges for a vicious elbow to an opponent’s head than all the NHL players who engage in similar tactics during the current playoffs, legal experts recently said.
World Peace, formerly known as Ron Artest, nailed Oklahoma City Thunder guard James Harden with an elbow smash to the head Sunday after scoring on a dunk. He was ejected and could face suspension by the league. Such punishment would mirror treatment of nine NHL players for similar actions during the playoffs. Phoenix Coyote’s Raffi Torres was given a 25-game ban, the third-longest in league history.
Legal experts say that is not likely to happen. Police and prosecutors are more likely to intervene when violent assaults take place in amateur sports, but criminal charges are extremely rare in cases involving professional athletes. This despite the fact that World Peace has a history of well documented violence. He was suspended for 86 games back in 2004 for his part in a brawl between players and fans during a game.
“The first step is you’d need to find a prosecutor that’s willing to bring the case and I don’t know if there’s much public appetite for charges to be brought,” said Gabriel Feldman, director of Tulane University’s Sports Law Program. “And I don’t know that law enforcement sees this as a top priority.”
Unless the behavior is out of control Feldman said most local prosecutors typically stay out of the fray. “These are potentially violent games and that’s part of the bargain that players sign up for.”
In order for any case to proceed against World peace there must first be a complaint from Harden. Even if that unlikely even happens there will be the problem of proving criminal intent, something hard to do given that it took place in the context of a violent sporting event and not out on the street.
Harden did not immediately return to the game and will not be cleared to play again until he passes a rigorous evaluation process under the NBA’s new concussion policy. If World Peace is to face punishment it will likely come from NBA officials. Tim Frank, senior vice president for NBA communications, told FoxNews.com that the incident remains under review.
The NBA will likely be even more sensitive to the violence given the recent attention given to head injuries. The recent suspension of the New Orleans Saints’ entire coaching staff for the upcoming season after learning that coaches instituted a bounty system to reward players for causing injuries to opponents is just one of several examples.
Read: “NBA star unlikely to face charges for dishing out concussion to opponent,” by Bradley MacLean, published at FoxNews.com.
(Lee Davis is a Chattanooga attorney who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 266-0605.)