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Rodman Takes His Bad-Boy Image To Below-The-Belt Low

Sat., Jan. 18, 1997

Punishment, if it’s to have any teeth, should be cumulative. The first time a warning might be OK. The second time merits at least a slap on the wrist. After that, you deserve whatever is sentenced. This is about the, oh, 500th career offense committed by Dennis Rodman, most of them without apology or remorse. I’d say suspending him for at least 11 games plus fining him $25,000 is about right. If the NBA wants to make it 15 games, fine. Bad behavior and sports don’t have to go hand in hand. Maybe Rodman will get the message this time, finally. If not, then sit him down again.

I don’t want to hear this stuff about, “Well, he didn’t try to kick the guy in the groin.” He kicked him, period. Intentionally kicked him. Rodman sure wasn’t trying to stomp out a roach the other night when he slammed the bottom of his big bozo foot into courtside cameraman Eugene Amos. Since when is kicking somebody - anybody, anywhere on his body - acceptable behavior? It would be in major league baseball, of course, but thankfully David Stern and Rod Thorn had the good sense to tell Rodman what he did is intolerable.

And if the NBA Players Association and Rodman’s people don’t like this, let them appeal or sue or do whatever they want to because this one - keeping thuggery out of the arena - is worth fighting for.

Amos, the photog, is a sidebar in the discussion. If I’m Amos, and I realize I’ve been kicked by a guy who will make about $15 million this year, I think I would have had a vision: “SHOW ME THE MONEY!”

Given that no jury outside Chicago - and where exactly would you find a jury of Rodman’s peers? - would find in favor of Rainbow Head, I would instruct my attorney that the bidding would begin at $500,000 and go up from there depending on how much stalling Rodman did. But again, this is a sidebar.

The main story here is Rodman. He once threw Scottie Pippen into the basket support as if Pippen were his opponent in a WWF match, he headbutted a referee and now he’s kicked a photographer. That about covers everybody who’s actually on the court. I guess those outside the court are next.

And those of you who will defend a celebrity at all cost and don’t much care about a photographer (and it’s frightening how many of you there are) should remember, many of those photographers risking their limbs at courtside are working for the TV networks that allow Rodman to make his absurdly high salary. Ticket sales don’t pay professional athletes - TV revenue does. So not only has the idiot kicked somebody, but he’s bitten the hand that feeds him. Amos wasn’t working for a network Wednesday night? You think Rodman stopped to check his credentials?

Rodman doesn’t stop to consider anything, so it’s time to stop Rodman. Bad behavior in sports will stop when people are kicked out. Friday afternoon, an irate reader, a gentleman who coaches AAU basketball in Virginia, called and exploded: “I’ll be appalled if you guys (the columnists) are not jumping all over Dennis Rodman,” he said. “He is repulsive. I am an African-American man who coaches mostly African-American kids. We work to teach these kids discipline, work-ethic, and to be gentlemen. And they see Rodman being accepted no matter how he behaves because he can rebound. He’s repulsive. He has no controls.”

The coach, of course, is right on the money. You know why there are a whole generation of disrespectful punks flooding professional sports - and reflecting society at large? Because there are too few people in responsible positions willing to risk confrontation and say to kids at an early age, “Sit down and shut up.” The coach apparently is trying to do just that, only to be undermined when little Johnny goes home and watches Roberto Alomar spit in an umpire’s face and go essentially unpunished, or sees Rodman kick a photographer and joke about the severity of the injury afterward.

If this were, say, Joe Dumars, or somebody like him with a squeaky-clean record, then perhaps you say, “Hey, the guy snapped in the heat of battle, so let’s make him make an apology and let bygones be bygones.” Should reputation figure into this? Of course. How many offenses do you think Rodman ought to have before somebody decides to get serious?

Undoubtedly, there will be those who say the Chicago Bulls are being made to pay too high a price for Rodman’s lunacy. Now, to recap: I am a Bulls fan. Not one of the Johnny-come-latelys who climbed aboard once Michael Jordan showed up, but a Chicagoan hooked on the team since it arrived in the league in 1966. Unquestionably, this hurts the Bulls big-time. Rodman will miss games against the Rockets, Knicks, Sonics and Lakers.

But you know what? The Bulls knew this was possible when they traded for him. (This is why they should have signed Jayson Williams, who isn’t quite as good a player, but is never a headache and rebounds every bit as well as Rodman.) They know Rodman is capable of going off on any given night, provoked or not. Phil Jackson, Jordan and Pippen ain’t stupid. They’ve been practicing with this in the back of their minds. Jordan and Pippen are going to be on red-alert now to prove they are not going to be held hostage by Rodman’s antics. And they’ll need to be, because this time Rodman may have walked through the looking glass.

xxxx A LOOK BACK Some of the major incidents involving Dennis Rodman: Dec. 20, 1993 Suspended one game and fined $7,500 for head-butting Chicago’s Stacey King. March 4, 1994 - Suspended one game and fined $5,000 for head-butting Utah’s John Stockton and making derogatory comments about referees. May 2, 1994 - Fined $10,000 and suspended for Game 3 of the Spurs’ first-round playoff series with Utah after being called for a flagrant foul and receiving two technicals, his sixth ejection of the season. Nov. 2, 1994 - Suspended indefinitely by Spurs for throwing a bag of ice toward coach Bob Hill and an official after receiving his second technical in an exhibition game. March 18, 1996 - Suspended for six games and fined $20,000 for head-butting a referee following his ejection from a game against New Jersey. Jan. 17, 1997 - Suspended by NBA for at least 11 games and fined $25,000 for kicking a courtside television photographer during a game at Minnesota.

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