He has been identified as the fan who threw the cup that launched Indiana Pacers forward Ron Artest into the stands, but John Green has denied being a catalyst in perhaps the worst brawl in modern sports history and insists he was trying to stop the fight.
"I was with a bunch of young kids I had taken to the game and he [Artest] jumped on somebody next to me," Green said in an exclusive interview on "Good Morning America." "I grabbed him from behind, trying to pull him off. I was trying to talk to him, telling him to stop and he kept yelling something, I couldn't hear what it was."
David Gorcyca, prosecutor for Oakland County, Mich., identified Green -- a former next-door neighbor -- on Monday after repeatedly reviewing the footage of the brawl between fans and players at the end of Friday's game between the Detroit Pistons and the Pacers. The NBA suspended nine players involved in the melee. Artest, who was involved in a shoving match with Pistons center Ben Wallace, charged into the stands after a fan threw a partially filled beverage cup that hit him. He was suspended for the rest of the season.
Gorcyca said that he saw Green grab Artest from behind and sucker-punch him. On the video, Green is shown wearing a white cap and Pistons jacket. A Pistons executive said Green is a season-ticket holder and would be banned from The Palace at Auburn Hills, the home of the NBA world champions. Green, however, said he was trying to stop Artest from punching several fans. He said Artest kicked him from behind and that he then "reacted."
"The cup got hurled from the general vicinity of where I was sitting," Green said in an exclusive interview on "Good Morning America" this morning. "He [Artest] looked up. We were shocked that the cup hit him. … He looked up at us and started charging up there. It was pretty shocking. I didn't know what to think."
In this morning's interview, Green's attorney would not allow him to say whether he threw the cup that sparked Artest's gallop into the stands. He said the video shows what happened.
"The video is clear about what happens. I suggest [to] anybody who wants to look at the video, there's questions involved in what the intent was," said Shawn Patrick Smith. "John is saying, look at the video. The video speaks for itself."
Green has a prior arrest record for DUI, felony assault and carrying a concealed weapon. However, he says he is not a criminal and has paid for his past crimes. He said he was trying to defuse the violent outbreak at the Palace.
"I don't know why they're [the media] saying I'm a criminal. I was at a game and I tried to pull somebody off a guy," Green said."As for, you know, Artest, he could have punched Ben Wallace, he didn't choose to do that when Ben did that. … Ron Artest went through the whole stadium punching people the whole night. He was being a thug."
Green said he does not feel sorry that Artest is suspended for the rest of the season. He said he is ready to accept the consequences if prosecutors feel he is guilty of wrongdoing.
"If they find that I did something wrong, then I'll pay the price, and I will do it," Green said. "I'm a grown man and whatever happens, happens."
Artest has apologized for the brawl and told People magazine he believes most of the fans are great but that one-tenth of them are "jerks." He also said his season-ending suspension was too harsh. The NBA players' union filed an appeal today on behalf of Artest and other players suspended in the brawl.
Prosecutors say police are reviewing tapes of the incident, enhanced digital photos and interviewing witnesses, but no charges are imminent. In addition to Green, they said they believe they are close to identifying another fan who threw a folding chair into the stands, knocking out another fan. Police today released a copy of a videotape showing the person they suspect is responsible for the chair-throwing incident.
Investigators say the case is more difficult to analyze than some murder cases because there were hundreds of witnesses and and dozens of potential suspects to identify and interview. Prosecutors said it could be weeks before they file any criminal charges.