Market Power

Musings by an academic economist on the power of markets and the power over markets.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

On the Basketbrawl Game - Signals to Fans

Commissioner David Stern has reacted harshly, and justifiably so, in handing down penalties in regards to the basketbrawl game between the Pacers and the Pistons (maybe we should call them the Pistoffs instead!). So far, no charges have been filed against any fans although the fan who allegedly threw the cup that landed on Artest as he lay on the scorer’s table has been identified. See here.

The punishment handed down on the players sends a signal to the players that they should think twice, maybe even thrice, before going after unruly fans. Of course this will not eliminate players going into the stands, but it should limit this possibility. The players’ punishment sends a signal to fans that the likelihood of players coming into the stands will be diminished. This has its ups and downs.

It remains to see how this will play out, but suppose that the authorities go relatively easy on the fans found to be involved in the incident. An easy punishment handed down on the fans sends a signal to some fans that if a fan mercilessly heckles a player during a game from the stands, the fan will not be punished too harshly by the law if the heckling escalates into something worse. Knowing this and knowing that players are unlikely to come after the unruly fans, the unruly behavior that was one of the flash points of the brawl is likely to intensify.