The NBA players' union filed an appeal on behalf of Ron Artest and two teammates on the Indiana Pacers who were suspended for their roles in a brawl with Detroit Pistons fans last week.
The union asked that an arbitrator decide whether there should be reductions in the suspensions of Artest, Stephen Jackson and Jermaine O'Neal. Artest was banned for the season, or 72 games, Jackson for 30 games and O'Neal for 25.
Artest said Tuesday he wished he had not gotten into the fight but felt the punishment was too harsh. The suspension means he will lose about US$5 million in pay.
"I don't think it was fair -- that many games," Artest said in an interview with NBC's "Today" show.
Union director Billy Hunter has called the penalties excessive, saying a suspension of about 35 games would have been more appropriate for Artest. Commissioner David Stern, who issued the suspensions, has sole discretion under collective-bargaining rules over penalties for on-court behavior, and appeals also go through him.
The union, however, asked that the case go to an arbitrator.
"The action taken by the commissioner sets a new high-water mark in terms of the kind of discipline he feels he can impose," Hunter said in a telephone interview. "I think he has exceeded his authority and should be subject to review and challenge."
Stern would normally have 20 days to rule on an appeal of an on-court discipline matter, and it was unclear whether the union's appeal strategy would put this case under that timetable.
"The players association's efforts to bring this matter before an arbitrator ignores the plain language of the collective bargaining agreement and the consistent past practice of the parties and will ultimately fail," NBA spokesman Brian McIntyre said.
The union's appeal also contests the brawl-related suspensions of six other players involved.
An NBA spokesman declined comment.
Pacers spokesman David Benner said the team had not yet decided if or how it might contest the penalties.
Artest bolted into the stands Friday after being hit by a cup thrown by a fan, touching off a brawl in which players exchanged punches with fans, who also threw drinks, popcorn, and other debris at the Pacers. Jackson also went into the stands and exchanged punches with fans, while O'Neal hit a fan who ran onto the court.
"This is the third time that I've been hit with something out of the crowd," said Artest, who claimed he had been struck previously in Detroit and in Cleveland.
Artest used the television opportunity to plug a CD he produced for an R&B group and wore a T-shirt and hat emblazoned with the logo of his record label.
In other developments:
-- Two fans sued the Pacers and the team's three suspended players, contending they were injured in the fracas. Spokesmen for both the Pacers and the Pistons declined comment.
-- Police released a videotape and asked the public's help in identifying a man who investigators believe hurled a chair into the crowd during the brawl. Prosecutor David Gorcyca has said the only possible felony charge in the brawl could be against the chair-thrower.
Jamaal Tinsley had a career-high 29 points and James Jones had a career-best 22 points and 10 rebounds Tuesday to lead the suspension-weakened Indiana Pacers to a 106-96 win over the Boston Celtics.
It was the Pacers' second game without their three stars -- Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson and Jermaine O'Neal -- and first since the team learned of the harsh punishment handed down by the NBA on Sunday. Several Pacers wore Jackson's and O'Neal's arm bands.