NBA Commissioner David Stern was right to suspend Washington Wizards star Gilbert Arenas for bringing guns to the locker room — editorial
By The Plain Dealer Editorial Board
January 12, 2010, 4:01AM
Before he died in November, Abe Pollin was one of Washington, D.C.'s most successful businessmen and philanthropists. In 1997, upset about rising violence in the District and the earlier assassination, in Israel, of his friend Yitzhak Rabin, Pollin decided to give his pro basketball team a new name.
The Washington Bullets, he said, simply sent the wrong message -- especially to young, impressionable inner-city fans. After a contest, the team was rechristened the Wizards.
Too bad Gilbert Arenas, the Wizards' biggest star and recipient of a $111 million contract from Pollin, failed to grasp his late employer's message -- or wisdom.
Arenas has admitted that after a pre-Christmas gambling argument, he put four unloaded guns in the locker of a teammate, along with a note: "Pick one." He says it was just a joke. Prosecutors in Washington aren't laughing; they've launched a criminal investigation.
Though league rules ban weapons in the locker room, NBA Commissioner David Stern initially deferred to law enforcement authorities. But Arenas kept making light of the situation, even pretending to "shoot" his teammates in a pre-game huddle. That was too much for Stern. Before Washington played the Cavs last week, he suspended Arenas indefinitely without pay -- about $147,000 a game.
You can argue whether pro athletes should be role models; the fact is, they are. It's also a fact that some 10,000 Americans a year die from gun violence. Guns aren't funny.
Abe Pollin understood that. Because Arenas did not, his career and freedom are at risk.