As with hockey, boxing, violence in basketball won’t likely lead to criminal charges

Nov 15, 2023, 6:05 PM | Updated: Dec 15, 2023, 5:36 pm


FILE - In this Feb. 24, 2020, file photo, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert shoots during practice before a NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

SALT LAKE CITY — It was a wild scene in the NBA on Tuesday night as Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors attacked former Jazz great and Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert by locking him in a chokehold from behind.

 Green was ejected from the game, his second ejection of the season. “Not much to say. That’s just clown behavior,” Gobert told the Associated Press.

But is it criminal?

KSL Legal Analyst Greg Skordas told KSL NewsRadio that Green’s assault on Gobert would be hard to prosecute because it’s all part of a sporting event. He compared it to professional hockey where fights break out during most every game.


Likewise, a boxer would not be charged with assault for punches thrown during a match.

“I’m not saying it’s right. I’m not saying it’s not criminal assault,” Skordas said. “We wrestled with those all the time when I was at the District Attorney’s Office, as to at what point you would really ever charge a player for harming another player in connection with a game.”

Ordinary person would face criminal charges, says lawyer

Green choking Gobert is aggravated assault under state law and it is a felony, which would be the criminal charge against a regular citizen, Skordas said.

If a fan charged a field, or a court, and began choking a player, charges would be brought against the spectator, Skordas stressed.

“But it would be very uncommon for someone [a professional athlete] to be charged for something like this  . . . we don’t charge these things; we really don’t in America; it’s part of the environment.”

Skordas said there are no exceptions to the criminal code or immunity from charges for pro athletes who assault other players during a game. 

Of course, there are cases where criminal charges can’t be ignored, he said.

For example, a hockey forward who once played for the Pittsburgh Penguins, died when his throat was cut by an opponent’s skate blade during a game Oct. 28 in England.

In this example, the suspect, another player, is suspected of manslaughter but has been released on bail.


Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play. 

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As with hockey, boxing, violence in basketball won’t likely lead to criminal charges