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NBA fines Calipari and Halberstam

March 27, 1997

NEW YORK (AP) _ The NBA, punishing non-game related speech for the first time in league history, fined New Jersey Nets coach John Calipari a record $25,000 and Miami Heat broadcaster David Halberstam $2,500 Wednesday.

``Discipline ... has historically been limited to comments about the game,″ commissioner David Stern said. ``However the recent statements by (Calipari and Halberstam) have forced us to re-examine this role and our responsibility. This is uncharted territory for an NBA commissioner.″

Calipari was fined for calling reporter Dan Garcia of the Newark Star-Ledger ``a (bleeping) Mexican idiot″ during a heated argument after a Nets practice last Thursday. The coach has since apologized, maintaining it was an ill-advised attempt at humor.

NBA spokesman Chris Brienza said the $25,000 fine is the largest ever against a coach. But Indiana’s Larry Brown was suspended for a game last year and the financial impact of that was greater, even though he was not actually fined.

Prior to this, the largest fine against a coach was $10,000. Brown, Pat Riley, Phil Jackson, George Karl and Bernie Bickerstaff all were fined that amount in the past three years.

Reached in Plant City, Fla. Calipari’s agent,, Craig Fenech, said, ``I can tell you I don’t agree with it as an attorney. I’ve not spoken to my client and I don’t know where he stands.″

Halberstam, who has been Miami’s announcer for five years, was fined for remarks he made last Wednesday while broadcasting a game against Golden State.

Remarking on a pass thrown by guard John Crotty, Halberstam said:

``Thomas Jefferson would have been proud of that pass. When Thomas Jefferson was around, basketball was not invented yet, but those slaves working at Thomas Jefferson’s farm, I’m sure they would have made good basketball players.″

Several Miami players said they were offended, and Halberstam has apologized for the remark.

``The discrepancy (in the fine amounts) is not intended to reflect any judgment as to which of the marks was worse _ in my mind they were equally intolerable,″ Stern said. ``The disparity in amounts results from a realistic acknowledgement of the differing financial impact the fines will have on the individuals involved.″

``These gentlemen, and everybody associated with the NBA, should understand that racially insensitive or derogatory comments are not acceptable.″

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