Larry Bird Should Listen To Mr. Pacer When It Comes To Being A Pro In Indy

By Gregory Moore
Updated: October 12, 2006

SAN ANTONIO — “You shouldn’t stand behind a player that is someone slapping you guys in the face during the middle of training camp being out at a strip club at 3 o’clock in the morning shooting it up like it’s the Wild, Wild West,” said Reggie Miller, now a TNT basketball analyst.

“That’s ridiculous. That is a black cloud. That is a punch in the gut for (team CEO) Donnie Walsh and (team president) Larry Bird.” That’s what is quoted by Miller on the incident in which Stephen Jackson, a guard with the Indiana Pacers, went out Friday night (Saturday morning), got into a scuffle at some strip club, got his ass kicked, and then became the punk that many people think he is by going to his ride and pulling out a gat.

And I’ll take it one step further because I’m highly offended by Jackson’s antics. Jackson has no business being in the NBA. This is the National Basketball Association, the premiere professional basketball league in the world. Stars are made and boys are sent home every day.

Those three letters also mean the following: No Boys Allowed, No Babies Allowed, No Bullies Allowed and most importantly, No Bulls******s Allowed.

Guess what Jackson is? He isn’t a professional basketball player that’s for sure and he definitely fits those other monikers because he doesn’t act like a responsible male figure in society. Not by a long shot.

But here’s what really gets me fired up and standing next to Miller. Instead of Donnie Walsh and Larry Bird understanding where Miller is coming from, they want to distance themselves away from Mr. Pacer and try to protect Jackson and the current team? Are they kidding me?

I wouldn’t protect a thug like Jackson if my life were hanging in the balance. To be very blunt and honest, I think Stephen Jackson is a wasted talent who needs to be unceremoniously cut loose for violating his contract. Now here’s the problem.

Walsh and Bird don’t have the balls to do so but they have justifiable cause in doing so. And just how do you get rid of a troublemaker like Jackson? You use my favorite part of an NBA player’s contract; the morality clause:

(a) The Team may terminate this Contract upon written notice to the Player if the Player shall:

(i) At any time, fail, refuse, or neglect to conform his personal conduct to standards of good citizenship, good moral character (defined here to mean not engaging in acts of moral turpitude, whether or not such acts would constitute a crime), and good sportsmanship, to keep himself in first class physical condition, or to obey the Team’s training rules;” That paragraph is from the Uniform Player Contract that each and every NBA player signs. Now people may not like it and I’m sure many are going to say I’m slamming Jackson for no reason but let’s get this clear; Stephen Jackson doesn’t have a right to play in the National Basketball Association.

The last time I checked, being a professional athlete and making millions of dollars boils down to being afforded a privilege in doing so and having the God given ability in making the most of that privilege. Of the hundreds of thousands of individuals who want to be in the NBA, guys like Jackson, and I’m meaning just the players in general, are the selected few and they should be wearing that badge with honor.

Instead we have a few of them, like Jackson, who don’t understand what he has because instead of him being professional and staying out of trouble, he constantly finds himself in it.

So I look at that part of the UPC and I ask myself, “How come the Pacers are so gutless in enforcing this contract provision and making Jackson toe the line?”. I’ll answer my own question. Because they are worried about repercussions from the NBPA.

Well I’m sorry but with all due respect, the player’s union needs to do its job and protect the hundreds of others who are not in legal trouble and let Jackson hang out there by himself.

I’m sure I’ll catch flack from many on my stance but I’m in a different boat here. When I look at this scenario, I’m not looking at it the way Billy Hunter and the union looks at it. I’m not even looking at it from Donnie Walsh’s perspective.

Where I’m looking is a place that neither one of these men want to travel down the road because if they do, there are quite a few bad apples being removed from the league. I’m looking at this gigantic pimple from the image side as a fan and as someone who speaks to our younger generation. I’m not saying that Mr. Hunter or Mr. Walsh don’t do this perspective. I’m saying they won’t do it in this case.

If I simply look at what’s in front of me and going off of the police reports and criminal litigation elements that Jackson faces, he would not be in a Pacers’ uniform today. I’d be his worse nightmare because I would have that contract in my hand, my finger in his face, voice rising and cussing his butt out and my foot nearly up his butt for embarrassing the Pacers organization, the fans of the team and the city of Indianapolis.

But then again, that’s why I’m a writer and not a general manager. But there’s also one thing that I am good at that evidently nobody in professional sports is good at and that is getting rid of employees who are a detriment to my organization. When it comes to moral turpitude and violating a team handbook, there is no opportunity commit the same mistake twice.

What Mr. Hunter and Mr. Walsh aren’t doing is looking at the UPC in the fashion that it is; it’s an employee handbook and it needs to be followed.

THE PROBLEM IS PRO SPORTS GIVE SOME FREE PASSES I want you to mark date I say this. When it is all said and done, the Pacers will embrace Jackson once again and he will screw up and violate the morality clause of his contract again. How do I know? Because he’s done twice before now. Oh and don’t be surprised if the team and the union slap him on the wrist for being bad.

If you want to know why there are so many athletes out there who get into trouble and don’t care about losing their jobs, it is because there are so many teams, management and even player unions who want to keep giving them second and third chances that turn into multiple chances of trying to do the right thing. But how do you do the right thing? By going to a strip club during training camp?

And thus the very reason why we will be seeing Jackson’s name on police blotters for probably another four years. It’s the very reason why so many other professional athletes are in the public mainstay right now. What’s even more troubling is the fact that these athletes, the ones who are constantly in trouble or who get into trouble, do not like obeying the law.

In reading some of the news accounts, it is reported that marijuana was found in Jamal Tinsley’s car. Okay let’s go back to the clause I quoted earlier. One of the phrases in that clause was “at any time, fail, refuse, or neglect to conform his personal conduct to standards of good citizenship, good moral character (defined here to mean not engaging in acts of moral turpitude, whether or not such acts would constitute a crime)”.

Folks, marijuana is illegal in the United States of America and despite a few court cases in which you can use it for medicinal purposes in some states, the fact of the matter is that you cannot use it for recreational purposes. So why was there some type of amount in Tinsley’s car? Shouldn’t he be suspended for violating the moral turpitude act of his UPC? If not, for what reason?

People may wonder how come Miller said the things he said about Jackson and on this case. Now maybe nobody in Pacer land or at the NBPA wants to man up and do the right thing and that’s fine. But be forewarned on something. If the Pacers are wondering why so many of the media are now thinking they are nothing more than the Portland Jailblazers of the Northeast, take a look at the characters that you have assembled.

What is the moral fiber of that roster is what they need to ask themselves. Mr. Hunter needs to start looking at some things too. Just how many times do you want to see a member of the union in the paper for criminal mischief rather than for being a good citizen? Granted stories of being a good citizen rarely appears in the press but that’s actually a good thing.

But we’re not talking about Donnie Walsh, Billy Hunter or even Jamal Tinsley when it comes to moral behavior. We are talking about Stephen Jackson’s stupidity at being at a strip club during training camp, endangering an innocent bystander and the fact that the greatest Pacer of all had the balls to call the team out on the actions of support.

What I am doing is calling out Donnie Walsh and Larry Bird for not being smart enough to realize that they should be listening to Miller. Miller was a teammate of Jackson for two seasons in Indiana. He was the team captain and the wily old sage who understood what it was to be a professional both on and off the court.

His demeanor and the way he carried himself is the very reason why he is at TNT now. Miller is still a professional and is sought out after by numerous media outlets.

So when Miller said that the actions of Jackson looked bad on the franchise, Walsh and Bird should have been shaking their heads and say that they agreed with that premise. Stephen Jackson has embarrassed this franchise once again on a national level and it is time that Bird and Walsh live up to that tough talk they kept promising from the Brawl in Motown escapade.

They need to suck it up, man up and bounce Jackson out of the organization whether due process is a reason or not. The UPC does not make a provision for due process. I know that and they know that. And if I know it, the Pacers know it, you better believe Billy Hunter knows it. But here’s what the Pacers don’t know. Hunter knows that the Pacers don’t have the guts to cut Jackson off of the provision.

Lucky for him and the union; too bad for the Pacers. But I am quite sure that if Miller had his way, Stephen Jackson would not be playing for the Pacers. Unfortunately for basketball fans, especially for Pacer fans, the franchise just won’t listen to Mr. Pacer and that’s too bad.