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Getting passed the jokes in Affaire Jokic, where’s the fairness?

What, the guilty owner is found not guilty?

Forgive our dereliction, but we were otherwise engaged when the Denver Nuggets lost a second play-off game to the Phoenix Suns on Sunday, May 7. As we tuned in to post-game coverage, we were distraught to learn that a phenomenal performance by two-time MVP Nikola Jokic was wasted. But our disappointment on his behalf was quickly replaced by disbelief: Jokic, one of the most upstanding, decent athletes in all of major league sports, was issued a technical foul after a fan placed his hands on the 6’11” center? Something didn’t add up.

As we listened to the postgame clips of Aaron Gordon and others, even as we saw the brief footage, we were suckered into thinking it was a random spectator with whom Jokic had played foul. Imagine our surprise, one might even say our delight, when we realized that the unmalleable “fan” from whom Jokic was attempting to wrest the basketball was no less than Phoenix Suns owner, billionaire Mat Ishbia (immaterial, but a fellow Member of the Tribe). Needless to say, Ishbia had a conflict of interest.

We do not count ourselves among those who know the NBA rule book inside and out. We tend to give the benefit of the doubt to our favorite player, so when Jokic says that the ball was in play and he was attempting to retrieve it to capitalize on a 5-4 man advantage, we believe him. When our favorite player says that the NBA is supposed to protect its players from being physically handled by fans, we support him.

Do we think Jokic “shoved” the fan, as some are alleging? Having seen the footage, no. We think he was going for the ball — but no doubt was aggravated when a Suns “fan” attempted to delay the game in order to prevent Jokic from scoring. As we say, a conflict of interest.

By now everybody knows that the “fan” was no ordinary fan. Which is part of what makes the whole incident so humorous. We must extend kudos to Ishbia who tweeted the following day that Jokic should not be suspended. However, are we cynical for thinking it may have been that Ishbia sought no further attention after social media decisively concluded that he had “flopped” after Jokic’s “shove”? For the record:The fan — the real fan — who shoved Jokic back following the scuffle with Ishbia was ejected.

For his infraction, Jokic was fined $25,000. Somehow, we doubt that Ishbia will ever receive a corresponding penalty for delay of game.

By the way, do you know who else wasn’t fined or ejected? Another “fan” who laid hands on Jokic following the Ishbia altercation. This was none other than Detroit Pistons’ Hall of Famer Isaiah Thomas, a guest of Ishbia’s that evening.

Speaking of the rule book, this one is going to go down in the NBA history book as fodder for further analysis and dissection ad infinitum. Let it include Jokic’s excellent point in his post-game interview. With his technical foul (and later his fine), the NBA essentially sent the message that if a spectator is important enough, he or she will not be held to the same standard as any other spectator; and, even worse, the player will be found guilty.

For a league infamous for its inequitable officiating based on a player’s star power, color us unsurprised.

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