A major fine for a moderate guy

The NBA essentially fined Micky Arison $500,000 on Monday for being a moderate.

The Miami Heat owner made the mistake of speaking his mind on Twitter, responding to a critic that took a direct shot at him.

"How does it feel to be a part of ruining the best game in the world? NBA owners/players don't give a damn about fans ... Fans provide all the money you're fighting over ... you greedy pigs," the poster wrote.

Arison answered: "You are barking at the wrong owner."

By engaging his critic Arison unmasked a rift between the big- and small- market owners, something that has long been suspected by the players but had been kept under wraps for the most part by NBA commissioner David Stern.

Arison also outed himself as one of the "moderate big market" guys who really don't care all that much about the hardliners that are losing money and willing to risk the season if the players don't agree to their demands for sweeping financial givebacks.

Of course, Stern is usually the smartest guy in any room so he didn't take action without some plausible deniability.

Arison also made the mistake of answering another fan on Twitter who asked him what he thought about oft-criticized Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.

Arison responded with a simple "lol" (laugh out loud), something virtually all of us do when asked about the mercurial Sterling.

The tweets, predictably, went viral rather quickly and Arison was forced to delete them.

Too little, too late, however, for Stern who rules his sport with an iron fist and has implemented a strict policy that no league official is allowed to speak about the lockout. That's his job with an occasional helping hand from deputy commissioner Adam Silver.

By 'criticizing' another league owner, however, Stern could take action without having to worry about receiving criticism for bullying Arison.

Call it a personal luxury tax for not toeing the party line or call it a $1 fine for laughing at Sterling and $499,999 for pulling back the curtain without Stern's permission and pushing the league to make a deal with the players against the wishes of the small-market owners.

The fine was one of the largest in NBA history but don't feel bad for Arison. At last check the Carnival Cruise mogul's net worth was $4.4 billion so a half-million dollars amounts to little more than a parking ticket on a personal level.

The fine does suggest, however, that the owners are far more divided than Stern has let on, something that undoubtedly makes Arison the most popular employer among NBA players right now.

That said, any perceived added leverage to the players' side as negotiations continue could only threaten a deal that seemed to be in the home stretch late last week.