What was the right sentence for Metta World Peace?

April 25th, 2012

So I’ve watched the video many times. I don’t think it was intentional, though it was certainly reckless to swing your elbow like that on a crowded court

World Peace maintained he did not know that Harden was behind him when he swung his elbow and that the contact was unintentional. He reminisced about the three dunks he had in the first half leading up to his ejection almost reverently, trying to explain just how excited he was leading up to the moment of the elbow following his third dunk over Kevin Durant.

“Kevin had no chance,” World Peace said. “Bumped him out of the way, went up, dunked and at that point, I was just way too emotional. It seemed like anger but it was a lot of passion involved. But it was erratic. It was erratic fire, it was erratic passion. It was way too much. Way too much …

“It definitely wasn’t meant to hit him how I hit him. That’s the best way I could describe those sequence of plays and the erratic passion.”

David Stern said it was “reckless thrown”–I think that’s right

“I believe that it was recklessly thrown and I believe that in looking at the replays again and again that he should have known that James was up against him, and some would argue that he had to have known,” Stern said.

So was his sentence greater because of his past? Stern said:

Stern said during a conference call that he took many things into account, including World Peace’s numerous past troubles. World Peace, who changed his name from Ron Artest, received an 86-game suspension in 2004 — the longest ban for an on-court incident in NBA history — for jumping into the stands at the Palace of Auburn Hills in the Detroit suburbs to fight fans.

“In fact, if it had been somebody that got tangled up and threw an errant elbow, would that have been different than this? You bet it would have been,” Stern said.

“It’s really very serious stuff and it does take in account the fact that the perpetrator is who he is and has the record that he has, and this called for in our view a very stiff penalty and we think that seven games, which only includes one regular-season game, is such a stiff penalty.”

Ilya Somin opines on various theories of punishment:

 If the goal is deterrence, than extra severity probably is warranted. World Peace’s previous record proves that he is an unusually difficult guy to deter, which suggests that greater severity is needed for him to get the message. Moreover, he is notorious around the league and the sports community generally. So punishing him is likely to have a strong example effect, because the punishment will be so widely publicized. It would thereby achieve general deterrence, as well as specific deterrence.

On the other hand, if the goal of punishment is retribution, then Peace’s past offenses are irrelevant. Yes, he was at fault for the 2004 brawl at Auburn Hills and other incidents. But he has already been punished for them, and should not be penalized for them again. For a retributivist, what matters now is the appropriate punishment for offense currently at issue. And the latter should be determined solely by the seriousness of the rule violation, not by what we think of the offender’s past record.

Mike Rappaport is a consequentialist!

As a consequentialist, I might be the last person to ask about retribution, but I wonder whether this is right.  Yes, World Peace has been punished for offense 1 already.  But when someone commits offense 2, we need not think he is only being punished for offense 2.  Depending on how the NBA rules are understood, he might be thought of as being punished for offense 2 by itself, plus for committing offense 2, having already committed offense 1.  Put differently, one might think there was one offense — offense 2 — and another offense for having committed two offenses.  In this respect, this latter offense is similar to the three strikes rule.

And how did Stern come up with seven games?

Stern said he felt that seven games now, knowing only one of them will be in the regular season, was a move severe penalty than if it came during another part of the season.

“I think the seven was larger than some people might have thought just from an elbow, and I think that in many cases people who thought that this was so horrible that it should result in a lifetime ban,” he said. “But at the end of the day, I have to close the door and say, ‘OK, what is justice here and what’s fairness here,’ and I came up with seven.”

Neither Mike nor Ilya were satisfied with the 7 game sentence.