(Steve Francis, left, shown with Bill Bellamy, star of 1997’s Palme d’or winning, “Def Jam’s ‘How To Be A Player'”. Neither are allowed to have much to say, being, y’know, entertainers.)

As the fallout from the Nuggets/Knicks brawl at MSG continues to dominate the papers and airwaves, the LA Times’ J.A Adande has emerged as a rare voice of reason amidst the bombast, suggesting that both the media and the Association’s reactions confirmed that “the sight of black players attacking white fans had undeniable racial reverberations.”

there will always be racial components when you’re dealing with a league in which more than 70% of the players are African American. But it’s not that simple in this case. The NFL has a similar proportion of African American players (66% last year, according to the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport), and almost all of the notable misdeeds, right down to the stomp on a helmet-less head by Tennessee’s Albert Haynesworth ” have been committed by African Americans.

Somehow NFL players have received the status normally reserved for white people in America: the right to be judged individually, not collectively. After Timothy McVeigh blew up that building in Oklahoma City, security guards didn’t cast a suspicious eye on every white man driving past a federal building. But ask any person of Middle Eastern descent how hard it was for them to board an airplane after Sept. 11.

In Tuesday’s Times, Adande quoted the Knicks’ Stevie Franchise, who made the mild observation “because there are more black players in the NBA, it’s under the microscope more than baseball or hockey.” There’s at least one self styled expert on racial matters who’d have you believe Francis is precluded from having an opinion because he’s lost his shooting touch. Meanwhile, in his LA Times blog, Adande contends with some equally thoughtful characters.

“I am apalled by the race card he plays. First, let’s be clear, I am a white guy. So if you need to take my remarks from the ‘white guy’ perspective, so be it. I believe you to be a pretty objective guy, so I don’t think you’ll lean towards the race card.

Francis race card comments are totally flawed, irresponsible, and cause me (and probably many other fans) to be less interested in seeing NBA games. What an idiot! He should get a suspension for those comments. However, it’s not a crime to be stupid, so I guess Stern will just have to shake his head on this and know that idiots play in the NBA.

I sure miss the good ol’ days of the 70’s and early 80’s when the NBA players seemed far more passionate about playing and winning than sissy fighting and making racial comments.”

I think Francis has made some dumb statements in the past (my most memorable is when he told me: only read magazines when I’m on the cover”), but he’s well within reason this time. It’s perfectly natural to wonder why basketball players are condemned for fighting when it’s seen as a natural part of the sport in other leagues. And it’s also inaccurate to believe there are more fights now than there were in the 1980s and 1970s.

“Your column is one of the worst columns I have ever read. Do you really believe that had white players been fighting (and I could not tell you if there were any whites – I only saw men fighting) there would be no reaction? Or that if a black was lost on Mount Hood, there would be no coverage? You mark yourself as a racial bigot.”

If a black what was lost on Mt. Hood? A black goat? Then there’d be no reaction. And black people go missing all the time; you just don’t see hours of television devoted to it.

The New York Times’ George Vescey weighed in earlier today on the the matter of whether or not the modern NBA is any more or less violent than the old school

Saturday™s brawl, which reminded me of battles I witnessed decades ago, sometimes at the œold Garden and sometimes at the 69th Regiment Armory, a dismal barn over on the East Side.

One constant was fisticuffs ” the wild flailing of elbows, guys in tight little shorts poleaxing each other for the sheer fun of it. The league was smaller then, and teams played each other over and over again, with enough frequency to exacerbate hard feelings.

There was no such thing as œhard fouls or œprofessional fouls. Pat Riley had not invented the concept of the Inner Clothesliner. Men just walloped each other: œThat™s for what you did to me last week in Fort Wayne.

In my mind™s eye, the Knicks are always playing the Syracuse Nationals on Saturday afternoon, circa 1953. Syracuse™s resident tough guy was Wally Osterkorn (above), a nasty-looking dude with dark sideburns, long before Elvis and the Fonz made sideburns effetely stylish. Known as the Ox to Syracuse fans, Osterkorn later did four years for burglary before admirably straightening out his life.

In a 1995 interview with The Post-Standard of Syracuse, Osterkorn recalled how he used to harass Bob Cousy: œHey, Bob! C™mon down the lane! I™ve got something for you!

And some people thought Isiah Thomas invented the tactic of deciding who should go down the middle and who should not.