Putting the Ball in a New Court: Using Restorative Justice as a Means to Punish NBA Players for the Commission of Violent Offenses
by Jessica Clarke
There were two minutes left in the basketball game. The Denver Nuggets had silenced the fans at Madison Square Garden with a twenty-point lead over the New York Knicks. The Nuggets, even though they had a commanding lead with very little time on the clock, kept their starting five players on the floor. One Knicks player, Mardy Collins, who was clearly outraged by this decision, aggressively hit Nuggets player J.R. Smith as he went up for an easy lay-up. The foul sent Smith flying into the stands. The players sitting on both benches ran onto the floor, and an all-out brawl ensued between the two teams.
The referees in the game ejected ten players from the two teams for the rest of the game. The Commissioner of the NBA, David Stern, moved quickly to hand down a strict punishment for the players involved in the brawl, suspending seven players from both teams for a total of 47 games.  Carmelo Anthony, the Denver Nuggets' star player, received the harshest punishment for his part in the fight — a fifteen game suspension. 
The punishment handed down by the NBA had a ripple of negative effects. First, the coaches and teammates not involved in the fight were left without integral players for the next set of games. For example, the Denver Nuggets lost their leading scorer, Carmelo Anthony, for fifteen games or twenty percent of the season.  Without their leading scorer, the Nuggets could not play to their full potential in each game.  The Nuggets, a team with a winning record, lost over half of their games without Carmelo,  which affected the team's ranking in the playoffs.  Because of the NBA's punishment to major players in this situation, the coaches could not continue developing their team with their main players, and both teams were penalized by not having their leader.
Second, fans invest in game tickets and expect to see their favorite players at these games. When the League suspends players, the fans lose out on these expectations and do not receive all that they have paid for. Nuggets fans, specifically, lost the chance to see one of the best players on their team and in the League play for twenty percent of the season. Even though the NBA intends to punish its players for their conduct, they end up harming others invested in the NBA.
Instead of issuing blanket game suspensions for violent acts between players in the NBA, the League should institute a new model to resolve these disputes that does not have the negative repercussions on fans, coaches, and other players. The NBA should incorporate restorative justice to resolve disputes. Restorative justice, in the form of victim-offender mediations and community impact panels, would give a voice to the injured player, the coaches, other players, and fans who are all left out of consideration when the League simply hands down a punishment. Furthermore, restorative justice would still result in a punishment to the offender, who would be required to follow the resulting agreement. Restorative justice would give offenders a better idea of what they did wrong and what effect their actions had on others.
This article proposes a model for the NBA to use to resolve inter-player, violent disputes. This model resolves the deficiencies in its current process in which the NBA simply hands down punishments without regard for the effect on other parties. Part II of this article describes the NBA's current system of punishment and deficiencies in this system. Part III describes restorative justice, focusing on two different types of restorative justice — victim-offender mediation and community impact panels. The description includes the benefits and alleged drawbacks of using restorative justice as a method to resolve disputes as opposed to traditional methods of punishment. Part IV provides a proposal to resolve the deficiencies in the NBA's current system of punishment using restorative justice.
II. The NBA's Method of Punishing its Players
The NBA has a set of rules that guide the Commissioner in punishing players.  The Official Rules have numerous provisions guiding officials and the Commissioner in punishing its players for violent offenses.  The Rules provide that the Commissioner can fine a player up to $50,000 and suspend a player for any number of games for a "fighting foul."  If a player punches another player during a game or fights another player in any way,  the player will be immediately ejected from the game.  The Commissioner may suspend the player for a minimum of one game and fine the player for any amount less than $50,000. 
In this year, the NBA has seen its fair share of violence on the court.  The most typical violence comes in short outbursts between two players, usually after an exchange of words. Between January 29 and March 7, 2007 alone, the NBA has suspended six players involved in violent outbursts.  These players have been prevented from playing for a total of seven games.  These offenses included fights, flagrant fouls, elbows, punches, and kicks.  With all of these suspensions, the Commissioner simply handed down the punishment without speaking to the players involved.
The NBA's method of punishment is analogous to the current criminal justice system. The Commissioner essentially serves as the judge and the jury, determining the fate of the players like a judge and jury determine the fate of criminals. In the NBA, the victim of the fight is not the one going after the player; instead, the NBA unilaterally punishes the player without giving restitution to the victim.  The current criminal justice system operates similarly. The state, as opposed to the victim of the crime, brings the action against the criminal defendant, and if the defendant is convicted, the punishment is typically jail time or other measures that do not provide restitution for the victim. 
The NBA's punishment system is problematic for various reasons. Because of the similarity between the NBA's method of punishment and the current criminal justice system, many of these criticisms apply to both systems. First, the Rules provide complete discretion to the Commissioner  for the punishment of players without giving much of a voice to the players involved in the violent offense.  The Rules do not give offending players a chance to give their side of the story. Instead, the Commissioner has the full discretion to hand down any punishment he prefers. The Commissioner can do so with no regard for precedent, the surrounding circumstances of the fight, or the interests of the parties involved in the offense. 
Second, this method of punishment does not take into account the effect this punishment will have on an offender's fellow players, coaches, and fans. All of these parties are innocent in the offense, yet they are directly affected by it. The fans lose the opportunity to see all of the players on the team play, and this suspension ruins the fans' expectation of seeing particular players when they purchased the ticket. Also, the fellow players and coaches lose the opportunity to play and practice with the offending player. As seen with the Carmelo Anthony situation, suspensions can deeply affect a team's ability to win games. 
Third, the Commissioner's punishment does not provide a benefit or restore the parties that are harmed by the offending player's actions. The suspensions do not help those players who the offending player injured. Furthermore, the fines issued by the NBA do not help restore those involved in the dispute. The NBA and the Player's Association split the fines, and the money purportedly goes to support NBA charities.  However, the NBA and the Player's Association refuse to release the name of the charities that receive this money.  Assuming that this money actually goes to a charitable organization, the money still does not help restore the players or community members involved in the dispute. 
The NBA should consider other methods of punishment, rather than simply allowing the Commissioner to issue the punishments. The current method of punishment does not take into consideration the rehabilitative benefit of allowing the offending player to take part in the punishment process. Additionally, this method does not give a voice to the victim of the offense, the fellow teammates, coaches, and the fans of the two teams. Instead, the NBA should consider other methods of punishment to remedy the weaknesses of the current system.
III. The Restorative Justice Method for Punishing Offenders
Restorative justice is typically used as a replacement for our current criminal justice system.  The purpose of restorative justice is to allow the victim, offender, and community to share their feelings in the form of a mediation.  The goal of this type of mediation is to restore the relationships of the parties and allow the victim to receive redress directly from the offender as opposed to the offender being punished by the state or some authority.  Restorative justice includes victim-offender mediation and community impact panels, as well as other methods of allowing the victim, the offender, and the community to resolve the dispute. 
Victim-offender mediation is a process  that allows the two parties involved in the criminal dispute to discuss what occurred and determine a solution to restore the parties.  The purposes of victim-offender mediations are to give the victim a chance to meet the offender, discuss what occurred, and tell the offender how the offense impacted them.  The parties generally reach some agreement that typically provides the victim or the community restitution for what occurred. 
Community impact panels are another type of restorative justice. They give community members a chance to tell offenders how their actions affected the community.  Offenders then have the opportunity to respond to the statements of the community members and offer an explanation for their actions. 
Although restorative justice is typically used as a replacement for the criminal justice system, this article proposes that it could be used in another context, to resolve violence disputes between players in the NBA. Because the NBA and current criminal justice system's methods of punishment are so similar, restorative justice may serve as a good replacement for the NBA's system as well.
A. Why Restorative Justice Is a Good Replacement for Traditional Methods of Punishment
There are many benefits associated with restorative justice that make it an effective alternative to traditional methods of punishment. First, restorative justice can help rehabilitate offenders. By offering offenders a forum to express themselves to victims, offenders will have the benefit of being able to vent their feelings.  By allowing face-to-face discussion, offenders have the opportunity to deal with their anger and uncovered feelings about the situation and the victim.  Restorative justice also requires offenders to face and appreciate victims, hear their account of what occurred, and how the offense affected them.  This process allows a type of shaming for offenders that they will not have to endure under traditional punishment systems.  Instead, traditional punishment shields them from truly dealing with the pain they caused to others by silencing victims and those affected by the offense.  This face-to-face experience has potential rehabilitating effects on offenders that make it less likely that they will recommit the offense. 
Second, restorative justice has the potential to provide great benefits for victims and community members. Similar to offenders, victims are also able to share their story, describe the effects of the incident, and pose questions to the offender. Traditional systems of criminal justice do not provide victims with this benefit.  In the NBA, the League simply hands down the punishment without considering the victims, other players, or the fans. By preventing these parties from having a voice in the mediation, they will not properly heal or experience closure for such an event. 
Restorative justice, however, provides victims with an opportunity not only to initiate closure but also to receive restitution directly from the offender. A study performed about victim-offender mediations found that victims who participated felt "less upset about the crime; and . . . less afraid of revictimization."  Restorative justice provides closure for victims and an opportunity to demonstrate to offenders the full effect of their actions. The punishment of the offender does not heal the victim, but evidence shows that communication through mediation does have a healing effect.  Traditional systems of punishment separate the parties involved, leaving the parties with unresolved aggression that the restorative justice seeks to heal.
With community impact panels,  in particular, offenders have an opportunity to hear about the effect of their actions on parties other than the victim.  Community impact panels have two major goals. 48 The first goal is to provide offenders with an idea of how their crime affects the community.  By truly understanding how their behavior affects others, offenders would be less likely to recommit the crime. The second goal is to empower community members by giving them a voice and a chance to face offenders within the community.  The goals of this type of restorative justice demonstrate a concern for the parties involved in the offense and rehabilitating the parties for the future as opposed to concentrating on punishing for the past.
Third, restorative justice programs currently implemented in the United States and other countries illustrate that restorative justice can operate successfully. There are nearly 400 restorative justice programs currently operating across the country.  Three continents base their criminal justice system entirely on restorative justice without any evidence of negative effects.  Because we have already found that restorative justice is a successful alternative to traditional methods of punishment, it will likely be a successful replacement for punishment in the NBA.
B. Any Drawbacks of Restorative Justice are Outweighed by its Benefits
Opponents of restorative justice raise various concerns regarding the use of restorative justice. The benefits of restorative justice, however, outweigh any potential drawbacks that scholars raise. Proponents of traditional methods of punishment argue against the use of restorative justice for four main reasons. First, scholars argue that restorative justice is not harsh enough on offenders and is a "less painful process."  Second, they argue that mediation lacks procedural safeguards that exist in formal punishment procedures.  Third, the mediation agreement determined by the parties will differ from mediation to mediation, resulting in unequal punishment for those who committed the same or similar offense.  Fourth, mediation is costly and therefore a less efficient process compared to traditional methods of punishment. 
The first argument that restorative justice is a less painful process for offenders  fails because it requires offenders to endure the painful process of facing the person they harmed. Traditional methods of punishment, however, free offenders from this burden. Like traditional methods of punishment, the offender still has a punishment to endure; with restorative justice, however, the punishment goes to the benefit of the victim and the community. Even if the process is perceived as less painful, restorative justice programs have been proven to be more effective in reducing recidivism rates than traditional methods of punishment,  making restorative justice the superior system to punish offenders.
The second argument that restorative justice lacks procedural safeguards is not entirely accurate. Although traditional methods of punishment such as adjudication or punishments simply handed down from persons in power (as is done in the NBA) have more of a structured procedure in place, restorative justice does provide some structure while still allowing flexibility for the parties. The position of the mediator ensures the fairness and success of the process. The mediator is an impartial facilitator of the negotiation and leads discussion between the two parties.  The mediator ensures that both sides have an opportunity to speak and makes sure that neither party is dominating the discussion or controlling the results of the mediation.  Also, the parties come to a self-determined agreement.  Although the mediator should not suggest proposals, the mediator can point out the parties' shared interests.  The role of the mediator adds a sense of structure over the process, but the process still provides the flexibility and control to the parties.
The third argument is that restorative justice will lead to unequal punishment for those who commit the same or similar offenses.  Even though punishment might vary slightly, the same offenses will generally lead to the same harmful outcome to the victim, and the offender will compensate based on that outcome.  The degree of punishment will likely be consistent. If the offense is more serious than others, the offense will result in the offender having to do more to compensate the victim. The fear that punishment could be unequal is particularly not applicable in the NBA context. Under the NBA system, the Commissioner simply hands down punishments without the confines of precedent or a sentencing guideline, allowing the punishments to vary considerably among players who commit the same offense. Therefore, this argument could serve as a drawback for both processes.
The final noted opposition to restorative justice is that it is a costly process.  Restorative justice requires the payment of mediators for the time spent with each group for their sessions.  This amount reaches well beyond current costs of the criminal justice system. Even though restorative justice procedures would cost more upfront, the rehabilitating abilities will decrease the costs in the future. Because studies show that restorative justice decreases recidivism rates,  less money will be spent to punish offenders in the future.  Therefore, the effectiveness of this process will eventually reduce the cost of mediation.
Although some scholars fear the institution of restorative justice as a full replacement to traditional methods of punishment, the benefits of restorative justice demonstrate that it is a viable replacement that resolves the deficiencies in traditional methods of punishment, such as the NBA's method of handing down suspensions and fines.
IV. Incorporating Restorative Justice into the NBA
The NBA should incorporate a new method of punishing player offenders for violent offenses. This new method would utilize restorative justice and remedy the deficiencies of the NBA's current model of punishment. Although this model does have drawbacks, the benefits that this model would provide to the League and its players outweigh these drawbacks.
A. The Restorative Justice Model for the NBA
The model would give an offending player who committed a violent offense during a game the opportunity to participate in a mediation to resolve the conflict. The offending player would either submit to a voluntary mediation or receive the Commissioner's punishment. If the player submitted to the mediation but the parties were unable to come to a resolution, the offending player would receive the Commissioner's punishment.
The mediation would be between the offending player and the victim of the offense; however, representatives from the teams, fans, and coaching staffs would have the opportunity to provide impact statements before the two players involved in the fight had the chance to come to a resolution. The mediator would be an impartial participant without any previous personal knowledge of the parties involved. This mediation format would differ slightly in cases of larger fights where multiple parties were involved (i.e. situation between the Knicks and the Nuggets.) Instead, a multi-party mediation would be conducted. A similar model would also apply in player-non-player disputes.
1. Defining the Parties Involved in the Restorative Justice Model
The following parties would participate in the NBA's restorative justice model for punishing its players. The "offender" is the player that committed the violent act, or a player that, under the old system, would have been sanctioned by the Commissioner for the violent act. The "victim" is the player or person on the other end of the offender's violence, receiving any type of prohibited contact from the offender. The mediation will give these parties a chance to face one another, give their account of what occurred, and determine forward looking solutions.
Although the two major parties are labeled "victim" and "offender" for the purpose of explaining the proposed restorative justice model, the line between victim and offender is often blurred. If the original victim fought the offender back, that person would also be punished under the Official Code of the NBA, making that person an offender. Because of the often blurred line between the victim and the offender, neither of the parties should be labeled as such during an actual mediation and neither of the parties should be limited in these roles during the mediation. Both parties should be given a chance to seek restitution and a chance to hear how their actions contributed to the altercation.
The "community members" can include any willing representative from any group affected by the fight. The community members would include a representative from the following: (1) the fans of the both teams, (2) the coaching staffs of both teams, (3) the players on both teams, and (4) the League. These representatives would have much to offer the mediation. The fan representatives could offer how the fight damaged the players' reputations with the fans and how the possibility of a Commissioner suspension would harm the fans. The coaching staff representatives could discuss how the players' actions impeded the team's progress. Similarly, the team representatives could discuss how the players' actions were harmful to the team's dynamic. The League representative could state how the fight affected the image of the League, incorporating more of the concerns of the employer.
The representatives are not limited in these statements and can state how the players' actions affected them in any way. Also, other parties not previously named that feel affected by the offender's actions may send a representative for the community impact panel.
The Commissioner will also play a role in the NBA restorative justice model. His role will be to approve all mediation agreements, making sure that the agreements are fair. The Commissioner can only reject the agreement if it demonstrates that the parties did not mediate in good faith. If the agreement demonstrates that the parties did not mediate in good faith, the Commissioner can reject the agreement and fine or suspend the player as would occur under the previous system. Also, if the parties fail to come to an agreement or the mediator feels the need to discontinue the mediation, the players would receive the punishment of the Commissioner.
2. The Mediator and The Mediation
The mediator plays an important role in the NBA restorative justice model, ensuring that the mediation flows as prescribed by this model. The mediation will follow, for the most part, the seven stages of mediation, which include: (1) pre-mediation preparation, (2) mediator's opening statement, (3) parties' problem description, (4) joint session, (5) caucus, (6) agreement, and (7) concluding the mediation.  The first step is pre-mediation preparation. A mediator needs to be selected and a conflict check conducted to make sure that the mediator is impartial.  The NBA could select mediators from private organizations,  and then conduct a conflict check to ensure that the mediators do not know the participants. To prepare for the mediation, the mediator will also need to contact all of the parties involved in the mediation, including the representatives that want to serve as "community members" for the community impact panel. The mediator would contact the various groups (the League, fans, coaching staffs, and teams) and ask them to offer a representative for the community impact panel.
Once the mediator is selected and the parties are identified, the actual mediation will begin. At the mediation, the mediator will provide a typical opening statement to participants in the mediation. The mediator will give introductions, explain the process of this mediation, and discuss the confidential nature of the mediation.  In discussing confidentiality, the mediator will state that the mediation agreement is confidential, and all statements made during the mediation are confidential.
The third step of this process will involve the parties' problem description in a typical victim-offender mediation format.  Both parties will both have a chance to give their accounts of what occurred. The players will have the chance to state what occurred, vent about the incident, and ask questions to one another about how and why the incident occurred. During this time, the mediator will summarize their statements and ask clarifying questions as needed. 
This step will also incorporate the community impact panels into the mediation. After the parties give their account of what occurred, the community members will then give their statements of how the players' actions affected them. The mediator will need to make sure that this panel is a constructive session and not one that harmfully targets the either party. The mediator can control the session by reframing the statements of the panel when making summarizations to take away the "sting" of the statements.  Also, the mediator could tell the panelists that it is more beneficial for the success of the mediation for the panelists to be constructive in their comments.
Before panel members leave the mediation, they each would have the opportunity to submit proposals for restorative solutions for the parties. The mediator would then read these submitted proposals to the parties during the joint session portion of the mediation. The parties would not be forced to adopt any of the proposals suggested by the impact panelists. The purpose in the panel members making this submission is to help generate ideas for the parties and allow the community members to feel that they are making a contribution to the process.
After the impact panel members finish their statements and submit their proposals for resolution, the mediator will summarize the parties' issues.  In summarizing the issues, the mediator should keep in mind that these parties are players that will likely play against one another in the future, making it important for the parties to consider their future working relationship. The mediator should require the parties to discuss their future relationship and ask them to offer practical proposals that would help them avoid this problem in the future.
The mediator will then conduct a joint session with optional caucuses. The joint session, limited to the two players involved in the fight, allows the parties to propose potentially agreeable solutions. These proposals are not limited to punishing the offender or just one party. If the offender feels that he deserves to receive some good or service from the victim, especially in a situation where the victim fought back against the offender, the offender has the opportunity to pursue this good or service. The mediator should make it clear that the purpose of the mediation is not to solely attack one player but to give both parties a chance to voice their concerns and agree to a mutually satisfactory solution. The mediator will lead the parties to this solution; however, if the parties reach an impasse and are not able to agree on a solution, the mediator can initiate a caucus and speak to both parties individually.
Lastly, the mediator will lead the parties to an agreement and end the mediation. If the parties reach an agreement, the mediator will review the agreement with the parties to make sure that they understand what they are agreeing to.  Once the parties give their confirmation, the mediator will write up the agreement and present it to the NBA Commissioner for approval.
3. Multi-Party Mediations
Although most fights in the NBA are between two players on opposing teams, larger brawls involving more than two players periodically occur, as evidenced by the Knicks-Nuggets brawl. Instead of the standard victim-offender mediation as outlined above, the mediator would need to conduct a multi-party mediation. The format for this multi-party mediation would be largely the same. Three changes, however, are necessary to make the multi-party mediation successful. First, the parties would include any person involved in the fight that would be considered a "victim" or "offender" under the previous definition. Again, the parties would not carry labels as victims and offenders.
Second, the mediator might want to consider pre-mediation caucuses.  Because of the high number of potential parties involved, the mediator will want to maintain an organized and effective mediation. To do so, the mediator could conduct pre-mediation caucuses to help organize the process. With these caucuses, the mediator could get a better idea of who the parties were in the fight, what role they played during the fight, and what the parties plan to say about what occurred. These caucuses would also help the mediator build a rapport with the parties as well. 
Third, the impact panel members could still submit proposals for resolving the dispute; however, the mediator would only provide the parties with that information if the parties seemed stuck in coming up with potential solutions or if time permits. Because of the potential large size of multi-party mediations, the mediation process would be very time-consuming. By adding more time to read the proposed solutions, the parties might become restless and uncooperative in the mediation. The mediator would then have the option of whether to include the proposals of the impact panel members if the mediator felt it would help the mediation and not overly bog down the parties.
4. Player-Non-Player Disputes
The NBA could also offer the restorative justice mediations for disputes or violence involving a player and a fan or non-player. An example of a player-non-player dispute occurred during the infamous Pacers-Pistons brawl in November 2004. A fan threw a cup at Ron Artest, a player from the opposing team, in the final minutes of the Pacer's game against the Pistons. Artest, in retaliation, jumped into the stands and punched the fan.  From that point, an all out brawl ensued between the players of the two teams.  In this situation, two mediations could be conducted. The first would be a multi-party mediation for the players involved in the dispute. The second mediation  could be between Ron Artest and the non-player fan. The NBA would determine if the fan was willing to participate in the mediation. If not, the player would receive a separate sanction from the Commissioner, regarding his violent contact with the non-player fan. If the fan or non-player agrees to participate, the mediator will go ahead with the mediation.
In a mediation between a player and a non-player fan, the mediator should be aware of the power imbalance between the parties. Because of the player's financial and social successes, the non-player will likely feel inferior in the mediation. The player might use this imbalance and try to take advantage of the non-player. To neutralize such a technique by a player, the mediator should remind the player that if he does not mediate in good faith and put effort into the mediation, the mediation would be void and the player would receive the Commissioner's sanction. With the threat of a hefty fine and suspension, the player's undermining tactic will likely be neutralized.
The mediator should also make sure that the non-player is not trying to take advantage of the player because of his wealth and status. The mediator must treat the players equally and prevent the non-player from exploiting the wealth and celebrity status during the proposal section of the mediation. For example, during a caucus, the mediator might ask the non-player if his proposals would be different he were mediating with an ordinary, non-celebrity.
For the most part, the player-non-player mediations would be conducted in the same manner as the other restorative justice mediations. The mediator will have to be aware, however, of the imbalance of power between the parties and make adjustments to compensate for these factors.
B. Why this Model is Beneficial for the NBA
The new NBA model of restorative justice provides three major benefits to the NBA organization and to those invested in the organization. First, the restorative justice model gives a voice to the players involved in the dispute. Instead of targeting the players, mediation gives them an opportunity to discuss and work through issues as opposed to simply blaming and punishing them. The model also provides players who were harmed by the fight with the chance to receive restitution for the harm that occurred. In addition to benefits to the players involved, the model gives those affected by the violence, including the teammates, coaches, fans, and the League, a chance to speak to the players. While the current method alienates these groups, the restorative justice model seeks to give these groups an opportunity to voice their concerns.
Second, this model allows the offending players to continue playing and practicing with the team, preventing the team, fans, and coaches from being harmed by the offending player's absence. If this restorative justice model would have been implemented during the Knicks-Nuggets fight, Carmelo Anthony would have remained playing for the fifteen games that he missed. The team would have had a better chance of continuing its winning record and may have had a better position in the play-offs. 
Third, this model contains procedural safeguards that ensure that the process is fair for both the players and the League.  A well-trained mediator is suited to neutralize and control issues that may arise during the mediation such as power imbalances, egos, and offender alienation. The Commissioner also plays a role in ensuring the fairness and success of the mediation. By serving as a check on the agreement of the mediation, it guarantees that the parties will mediate in good faith and put in a concerted effort into reaching a fair agreement.
Proponents of the NBA's current method of punishment will likely raise opposition to the new restorative justice model. Some may perceive this model as a less painful process that will not teach the players a lesson. Also, the NBA might find that this method is more costly and therefore less efficient compared to its current method of punishment. The NBA further might argue that mediations would be detrimental to its image because the agreements are confidential so the public will never know how or if the players were punished.
Although some might believe that this model is not painful enough for offenders to learn their lesson, this model is strong enough to deter players from fighting in the future. The offending player will not only have to face the player that he fought during the game, but also his teammates, coaches, and fans. Having to face those actually affected by his actions will place the offending player in an uncomfortable position that he will want to avoid in the future. With the current system, the player can, for the most part, avoid facing these people and avoid facing the true effects of his actions.
This model will cost more money and use more time; however, these costs are worth the benefits of the model. If the model works and helps to deter players from committing further violent acts, then the NBA might finally be able to clean up its image. By having fewer fights, the NBA will be able to spend less time and money on marketing ploys to repair its reputation and fans will feel less alienated by the players.
The mediation agreements would be confidential under this model. Some might fear that the public would be weary of a system that did not allow them to know the result of the players' punishment. The confidentiality of the mediation agreement, however, is necessary. If the agreements were made public, players in the future would simply use the past agreements as a standard for their current mediation and would not go through the mediation process to come up with solutions that fit their situation. Therefore, it is necessary for the mediation agreements to be confidential to protect the success of the process.
Although the confidential nature of mediation will preclude the public from learning the players' punishments, the NBA could offer a public statement making it clear that its players are being punished. The NBA could also inform the public that all mediation agreements are subject to the Commissioner's approval, letting the public know that players are not simply getting away with their crime.
Even though alleged drawbacks might arise associated with this model, the benefits of this restorative justice model outweigh the drawbacks. Therefore, the NBA should consider replacing its current system with one that restores the parties involves, leaves third parties unaffected, and deters the players from recommitting violent acts on the court.
Fights in the NBA continue to occur, even in the face of Commissioner David Stern's harsh punishments. These punishments do not effectively restore the parties involved in the fight, and they harm people who were not involved. Instead of allowing the NBA to unilaterally hand down these punishments, the NBA should institute a restorative justice model for punishing players involved in violent disputes. This model would restore the parties involved in the dispute and eliminate harm to third parties.
 See Nuggets-Knicks Suspensions, The NBA News, Dec. 18, 2006, http://www.nba.com/news/Nuggets_Knicks_Suspensions.html.
 Suspensions Total 47 Games from Knicks-Nuggets Fight, ESPN, Dec. 20, 2006, http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=2701228. These suspensions were without pay. Also, the Commissioner fined both teams $500,000. Id.
 See Carmelo Anthony 2006-2007 Statistics, available at www.nba.com/playerfile/carmelo_anthony.
 At this point, the Nuggets had also traded players and received NBA stand-out, Allen Iverson. See Denver Nuggets Game-by-Game Archive 2006-2007 at December 22, 2006, available at http://www.nba.com/nuggets/multimedia/0607_multimedia_archive.html. With the punishment that the NBA handed down, Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson had to wait until January 22, over a month after incident, before playing together. Id.
 See id.
 Because of their record, the Denver Nuggets, seeded six, are set to face the San Antonio Spurs, seeded three, in the first round of the playoffs. Liz Robbins, N.B.A. Playoff Preview, New York Times, April 21, 2007 available at http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/21/sports/basketball/21playoffs.html (last visited March 27, 2008).The Spurs have had the best record since the NBA All-Star, losing just six of thirty games. Id.
 The Official Rules of the National Basketball Association 2006-2007, available at www.nba.com/media/rule_book_2006-07.pdf.
 Id.(stating that fighting includes throwing an elbow at shoulder level or below.)
 See NBA Fines and Suspensions 2006-2007, available at http://www.eskimo.com/~pbender/fines.html (last visited March 27, 2008).
 See The Official Rules of the NBA, supra note 7.
 See Maureen E. Laflin, Remarks on Case-Management Criminal Mediation, 40 Idaho L. Rev. 571, 594 (2004) ("[The Prosecutors] call the shots, and victims are dependent on prosecutors to extract revenge or their pound of flesh.") This form of revenge does not provide a tangible benefit to the victim of the crime. See Id.
 The League does provide players with an opportunity to challenge a fine or suspension in arbitration. Darren Rovell, A Fine Predicament for NBA?, ESPN News, April 6, 2001, http://espn.go.com/nba/s/2001/0406/1168454.html. Some players, following a brawl between the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons, sought to have their suspensions reduced. NBA Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik's Statement, Arbitrator Upholds Suspensions of Three Players; Reduces O'Neal Suspension, available at http://www.nba.com/news/statement_041222.html. The NBA Players Association filed a claim on behalf of the players that was heard by an arbitrator. Id.The arbitrator reduced one player's suspension (Jermaine O'Neal) from twenty-five games to fifteen games. Id.However, the NBA released a statement arguing that the arbitrator had no real authority to issue this reduction and that the Commissioner still retained control over suspensions for "conduct on the playing court." Id.The NBA plans to challenge the arbitrator's suspension reduction in federal court. Id.
 The current criminal justice system is often criticized for not giving victims a voice in the prosecution of a defendant. See Laflin, supra, note 18; Heather Strang & Lawrence W. Sherman, Repairing the Harm: Victims and Restorative Justice, 2003 Utah L. Rev. 15, 18 (2003) (stating that victims are often dissatisfied with the criminal justice process because the do not play a "legitimate role in the processing of their case beyond that of witness for the prosecution.") Typically, the Commissioner simply hands down the punishment in the case of a violent offense, but the player has an opportunity to appeal in front of an arbitrator. See NBAPA Considers Appeal of Seven-Game Suspension, ESPN, July 17, 2007, available at http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=2937551. An appeal can be made by both the player himself (or by an agent on the player's behalf) or the NBA's Players' Association. Id.
 The Rules state that, "There is absolutely no justification for fighting in an NBA game. The fact that you feel provoked by another player is not an acceptable excuse." The Official Rules of the National Basketball Association 2006-2007, available at http://www.nba.com/media/rule_book_2006-07.pdf.
 See Denver Nuggets Game-by-Game Archive 2006-2007, supra note 4.
 Rovell, supra note 19.
 One could argue that because the League is an injured party in the dispute that money going to charities help restore the image of the League. Although this might be true, the NBA refuses to release where this money goes. The public does not actually see these efforts, making it less likely that their public image is restored.
 See Jonathan Todres, Toward Healing and Restoration for All: Reframing Medical Malpractice Reform,39 Conn. L. Rev. 667, 707 (2006) (stating "Restorative justice . . . brings together individuals who have been affected by a crime with the goal of having them agree on how to address the harm done by the crime.")
 See John Braithwaite, A Future Where Punishment is Marginalized: Realistic or Utopian?, 46 UCLA L. Rev. 1727, 1728-29.
 See Todres, supra note 26.
 The victim-offender mediation process has six essential steps. Mark S. Umbreit, Mediating Interpersonal Conflicts: A Pathway to Peace 143 (1995). The steps include the following: (1) mediator's opening statement, (2) statements of the victim and offender, (3) clarification of facts and opportunity to vent, (4) reviewing victim losses and options for compensation, (5) developing a proposal for restoring the parties, (6) mediator's closing statements. Id.
 See Chieko Clarke, Maternal Justice Restored: Redressing the Ramifications of Mandatory Sentencing Minimums on Women and Their Children, 50 Howard L. J. 263, 281-82 (2006).
 Eric W. Nicastro, Note, Confronting the Neighbors: Community Impact Panels in the Realm of Restorative Justice and Punishment Theory, 9 Roger Williams University L. Rev. 261, 261 (2003).
 Erik Luna, Restorative Justice in Federal Sentencing: An Unexpected Benefit of Booker?, 37 McGeorge L. Rev. 787, 801 (citing John Braithwaite, Restorative Justice and Therapeutic Jurisprudence, 38 Crim. L. Bull. 244 (2002)).
 See Id. (noting the "therapeutic" benefits of restorative justice).
 See Lawrence W. Sherman, Domestic Violence and Restorative Justice: Answering Key Questions, 8 Va. J. Soc. Pol'y & L. 263, 278 (2000).
 See Id.
 See Mary Ellen Reimund, The Law and Restorative Justice Friend or Foe? A Systematic Look at the Legal Issues in Restorative Justice, 53 Drake L. Rev. 667 (2005) (citing one study that showed that the majority of offenders who participated in a restorative justice mediation were satisfied with the experience, making it less likely that they will recommit the same crime.) See Also, William R. Nugent, Mona Qilliams, Mark S. Umbreit, Participation in Victim-Offender Mediation and the Prevalence and Severity of Subsequent Delinquent Behavior: A Meta-Analysis, 2003 Utah L. Rev. 137, 162 (2003) (providing a meta-analysis demonstrating that victim-offender mediation may decrease an offenders likelihood to engage in "subsequent delinquent behavior.") Current methods of punishment do not lead to lower recidivism rates, like restorative justice. See Robin Bradley Kar, Hart's Response to Exclusive Legal Positivism, 95 Georgetown L. J. 393, 460 (2007) (stating " [ ] rates of recidivism are so high in countries like the United States and so much lower in places like Japan, where practices of criminal punishment include . . . ‘reintegrative shaming' . . . .") This result might be because traditional methods of punishment do not deal with the anger of the offender, while restorative justice seeks to do so.
 Heather Strang & Lawrence W. Sherman, Repairing the Harm: Victims and Restorative Justice, 2003 Utah L. Rev. 15, 18 (2003).
 Linda G. Mills, The Justice of Recovery: How the State Can Heal the Violence of Crime, 57 Hastings L.J. 457, 483 (2006).
 Luna, supra note 36, at 800 (citing Barton Poulson, A Third Voice: A Review of Empirical Research on the Psychological Outcomes of Restorative Justice, 2003 Utah L. Rev. 167 (2003)).
 Mills, supra note 43, at 458.
 Community impact panels are typically used to resolve low-level crimes, such as "public urination, public drinking, violation of open container laws, and vandalism." Nicastro, supra note 34 at 266. These are crimes that typically harm the community, making community impact panels particularly useful to allow the offender to fully appreciate the damage caused.
 Adriaan Lanni, The Future of Community Justice, 40 Harv. C.R.-C. L. L. Rev. 359, 374-75 (2006).
 See Nicastro, supra note 34 at 266.
 Reimund, supra note 41 at 672.
 Strang & Sherman, supra note 42, at 42.
 Patrick Glen Drake, Comment, Victim-Offender Mediation in Texas: When "Eye for Eye" Becomes "Eye to Eye", 47 S. Tex. L. Rev. 647, 651 (2006).
 See Christa Obold-Eschleman, Note, Victims' Rights and the Danger of Domestication of the Restorative Justice Paradigm, 18 N.D. J. L. Ethics & Pub Pol'y 571, 581 (2004). See Also, Jennifer Gerarda Brown, The Use of Mediation to Resolve Criminal Cases: A Procedural Critique,43 Emory L. J. 1247 (1994).
 Paul H. Robinson, The Virtues of Restorative Processes, the Vices of "Restorative Justice", 2003 Utah L. Rev. 375, 380 (2003).
 Drake, supra note 53, at 652.
 Id.at 651.
 See Strang & Sherman, supra note 42, at 39 (citing Lawrence W. Sherman et al., Recidivism Patterns in the Canberra Reintegrative Shaming Experiments 12-15 & figs. 1-10 (2000) available at www.aic.gov.au/rjustice/RISE/recidivism/report.pdf.)
 Edward Brunet, Charles B. Craver, Ellen E. Deason, Alternative Dispute Resolution: The Advocate's Perspective Cases and Matertial 199 (2006, 3rd).
 See Id. at 235.
 Id.at 199.
 Id.at 201.
 Robinson, supra note 55, at 380.
 See Clarke, supra note 31, at 285-86 (2006). This article states that because "restorative justice is based on consensual agreements between the victim, offender . . . and community members, inconsistencies and a seeming lack of proportionality do not seem to be wrong. Any inconsistencies or lack of proportionality are the result of ‘genuine and uncoerced agreement between key parties' and therefore seems to be more just than the current law." Id.at 286 (citing Restorative Justice: Philosophy to Practice 21 (Heather Strang & John Braithwaite eds. 2000)).
 Drake, supra note 53, at 651.
 Id. See Also, Strang & Sherman, supra note 42, at 39.
 See Brunet, supra note 59, at 228.
 See Id. at 229 (noting private entities such as the American Arbitration Association, the International Chamber of Commerce, the Lawyers Mediation Service, or J.A.M.S.).
 Id.at 234.
 See text accompanying note 31.
 Id.at 235.
 See Id. ("Extreme statements can be adroitly reframed to make them more palatable to the other side.")
 See Brunet, supra note 59, at 235.
 See Id. at 245.
 See Richard M. Calkins, Caucus Mediation—Putting Conciliation Back into the Process: The Peacemaking Approach to Resolution, Peace, and Healing, 54 Drake L. Rev. 259, 284 n. 64 (2006).
 Artest, Jackson Charge Palace Stands, ESPN News, November 21, 2004, http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=1927380.
 As the brawl continued, more non-players became part of the fight. Because of the involvement of more non-players, there may be more than one mediation conducted involving a player and a non-player.
 See text accompanying note 6.
 In addition to these safeguards, the combination of athletics and ADR mechanisms has succeeded in the past. The NBA currently uses arbitration as a method to settle its appellate procedures. The Olympics has also incorporated mandatory and binding arbitration for athlete disputes. Melissa R. Bitting, Mandatory, Binding Arbitration for Olympic Athletes: Is the Process Better or Worse for "Job Security"?, 25 Fla. St. Univ. L. Rev. 655 (1988).