Moral Panic

The Persecution of Gilbert Arenas

How gun prohibitionists and an image-conscious NBA scapegoated a basketball star.

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On December 19, 2009, NBA star Gilbert Arenas and fellow Washington Wizards player Javaris Crittenton got into a heated argument over a card game, exchanging violent threats. (Arenas maintains that his were made in jest.) After Crittenton challenged him to a fistfight, Arenas told his younger teammate he was too old to fight him, but he'd burn his SUV or shoot him in the face instead. Crittenton answered that he'd shoot Arenas in his surgically repaired left knee.

Two days later, before practice at Washington, D.C.'s Verizon Center, Arenas placed four unloaded handguns on the chair in front of Crittenton's cubicle in the team's locker room with a note that read, "PICK 1."

"You said you were going to shoot me," Arenas reminded Crittenton. "So pick one." Crittenton then flung one of the tendered guns across the floor and withdrew from his backpack one of his own (whether it was loaded is unclear), which he displayed for Arenas, holding it "below his waist and pointed downward," according to the government's proffer of facts. Any tension quickly dissipated, and soon the two were bantering together in the Jacuzzi.

That's what Arenas did. Here are some things he did not do:

• hurt anyone;
• fire a gun;
• own illegal firearms;
• bring a loaded gun into D.C. or the Wizards' locker room, let alone brandish one in a threatening manner. He didn't even own any ammunition for the weapons in question.

On January 15, 2010, Arenas pled guilty to one felony count of carrying a pistol without a license in the District of Columbia, punishable by up to a $5,000 fine and five years in jail. On March 26, D.C. Superior Court Judge Robert Morin sentenced the player to 30 days in a halfway house, two years of probation, 400 hours of community service, and a $5,000 fine.

The judge got it about right—but only after three months of overkill from the other featured performers in the Arenas morality play: the overreaching prosecutors who pressed to lock him up, the tabloid heckler who mousetrapped the player with reckless smears, and the NBA commissioner who peremptorily wiped out Arenas' season.

You don't have to support gun control laws to see that Arenas committed a stupid act that could have ended far worse than it did. But you don't have to support gun rights to see that he has paid a price grossly disproportionate to his mistake.

The Law After Heller

Arenas' crime was jurisdictionally specific. His acts would likely have been legal at his home in Virginia, where no license is required to own a handgun and concealed-carry permits are issued based on criteria that Arenas seems to have satisfied. Even in D.C., if Arenas had been found with guns in his home or "place of business," it would have been only a misdemeanor, punishable by a $1,000 fine and/or up to a year in jail. (Counterintuitively, the Wizards' locker room did not qualify as Arenas' "place of business," which D.C. law defines as the place where the owner of an enterprise transacts its affairs.)

In 2008 the Supreme Court's landmark ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller struck at the heart of D.C.'s blanket ban on gun possession. Explicitly recognizing an individual right to keep handguns in the home for self-defense, the majority opinion sowed doubt, among the general public and constitutional scholars alike, about the continuing viability and extent of the city's highly restrictive gun laws. Arenas says he mistakenly believed that as a result of the decision he no longer needed a license to carry unloaded handguns in the city, when in fact D.C.'s post-Heller regulations continued to prohibit public possession of firearms in most situations. In an unusually broad 26-page sentencing memo making their case for a prison sentence, prosecutors ridiculed this "feigned ignorance of the law excuse," noting that Arenas had attended a compulsory November 2009 briefing in which law enforcement officials explained D.C. gun laws to Wizards players.

It's hard to evaluate the efficacy of the briefing—did it, for example, directly address the issue of unloaded guns?—without access to the unidentified (and un–cross-examined) players the prosecution cited as witnesses. But if the new gun rules were as easily mastered and non-controversial as the prosecution implied, why was a special briefing needed to explain them? The Heller ruling and the D.C. government's recalcitrant response to it left the city's comprehensive gun ban suspended in a confused and contentious atmosphere of constitutional limbo. Arenas' misunderstanding of the law could have been feigned—who knows?—but in this shifting legal environment there is surely no reason to assume that it must have been.

There is wide agreement that the D.C. Council responded to the ruling with a minimalist compliance strategy designed to buy time until the Heller majority is supplanted by one more friendly to gun control. By creating formidable bureaucratic obstacles to gun ownership, George Mason law professor Ilya Somin wrote in a 2008 Legal Times article, the District's new regulations "eviscerate the individual Second Amendment right that the Supreme Court has recognized."

D.C. authorities argue that "the right to keep and bear arms" recognized in Heller does not include the right to have guns outside the home. But in keeping with its originalist approach to constitutional interpretation, the Heller majority looked for the meaning of "the right to keep and bear arms" in the ordinary usage of the Framers' day, when "to bear" meant "to carry." In a 2008 Syracuse Law Review article, Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf wondered why the Framers would have crafted a constitutional amendment to protect the right of citizens to carry firearms from one room to another.

Writing for the majority in Heller, Justice Antonin Scalia sketched out a range of permissible exceptions to Second Amendment rights, including "laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and public buildings." But "if it were possible for the government to ban all firearms possession outside the home, there would be little point in singling out 'sensitive places,'?" wrote Dorf. "There could be exceptions to the right to public carriage, but a complete ban on carrying firearms outside the home would appear to violate the Second Amendment as understood in Heller." (Dorf isn't grinding an ideological axe here. He personally favors trying to limit Second Amendment rights to possession within the home.)

Taken at face value, the Supreme Court's ruling opened the door to a broad, though not unlimited, right to carry handguns in the District of Columbia, inside and outside the home. And why would Arenas have taken it any other way? Like many of us, he had probably heard or read something about the widely publicized Heller decision—and little or nothing about the inside-page story of the D.C. government's response. Now there may be a broad public understanding of the District's new gun rules. But if so, that's largely thanks to Arenas' own highly publicized arrest and prosecution.

Gilbert Arenas was just what D.C. needed, a celebrity athlete with all the requisite signaling power to drown out the Court's message with one of its own: Heller, schmeller. If we catch you carrying a gun, we'll put you behind bars.

Overreaching Prosecutors

It's a tall order to win a jail sentence for an admired member of the community with no violent prior offenses after nothing more than a nonviolent, jurisdiction-specific offense under an ambiguously worded law in a shifting legal environment. It's less of a reach if he's a bullying, gun-slinging sorehead laughing at his crime with all the arrogance we've come to loathe in the bubble world of sports superstardom. That wasn't Arenas' reputation, but perhaps that could be fixed.

In recommending a jail sentence for the single count of carrying a handgun without a license, prosecutors labored to paint Arenas as an unremorseful offender deceitfully downplaying his guilt. To do this, they pounced on an ill-advised attempt by Arenas to take the fall for his teammate. Early on in the Wizards' own investigation of the locker room incident, Arenas briefly changed an element of his story. In an effort to shield Crittenton—a younger, more vulnerable player—from punishment, Arenas texted a team official: "I'll take full responsibility for everything. I had the guns and nobody else. Javaris wasn't even in the locker room when I showed them."

The altered story, soon abandoned, would not have lessened Arenas' own criminal exposure. He had immediately admitted bringing guns into the locker room and never denied it through multiple investigations. Yet the prosecution argued that in attempting to assume sole rather than shared blame for the incident, Arenas was trying to evade responsibility.

In the prosecution's theory of the case, Arenas was the Wizards' alpha male, bent on preserving his supremacy against all rivals. Accordingly, his actions in the locker room were part of a dangerous, darkly motivated plan to intimidate an upstart benchwarmer. In stubbornly insisting the incident was no more than a "misguided prank," the prosecutors claimed, Arenas was refusing to own up to the seriousness of his crime. Because the act was premeditated, they argued, it must not have been a prank—as if the two concepts are mutually exclusive.

Nor, apparently, can pranks be susceptible to misinterpretation. Although there "may have" been evidence (as the prosecution's grudging formulation had it) that Arenas (among others) was laughing during both the initial verbal sparring over a card game and the later locker room incident, he could not have been joking because some witnesses took his threats literally and Crittenton felt "endangered" in the locker room. "They did not take it as a joke because it was not a joke," the prosecution concluded.

But chances are witnesses did not take it as a joke precisely because it was. Misdirection—induced misunderstanding—is the essence of a gag. A practical joke briefly sells its victim a false reality, often one that provokes temporary confusion, stress, and even fear, before bringing relief with the reveal: Ha ha, they weren't loaded. Clowns have long understood the uses of instantaneous, involuntary stress aroused by the form of a gun. Hence the gag gun familiar from vaudeville acts: When fired, it ejects a banner that says, "Bang!"

Arenas' guns, though unloaded, were real, not fake. The illusion was too convincing. When the prosecution says "it was not a joke," the argument rings true at first because we recognize that the prank was "no laughing matter." But the phrase "no laughing matter" is not typically applied to, say, divorce proceedings, sick children, or funerals. It's a term of rebuke reserved for inappropriate jokes, pranks, or laughter.

The worst thing about what Gilbert Arenas did is that he was joking. The prank's main social harm lay in the message it sent: that guns are harmless props to be toyed with while clowning among friends. Those most apt to use guns in imaginary play are children, who don't always appreciate the difference between real and fake, locked and unlocked, loaded and unloaded. Children idolize professional athletes. In its pointless obsession with proving Arenas wasn't joking, the government wasted its best opportunity to salvage from this sorry affair an instructive moral for those most in need of moral instruction.

The mainstream press provided little useful context to help readers gauge the severity of Arenas' offense. In trying to supply some background, a March 23 Associated Press story that appeared in a vast array of print and online outlets only confused matters further. "A survey of similar cases over the last two years in the district indicate [sic] that about half of the defendants convicted of Arenas' crime receive some amount of jail time," the A.P. reported.
The "similar cases," it turns out, were a miscellany of loosely defined "felony gun possession" cases, with wide disparities in the underlying offenses. The sample encompassed cases involving loaded as well as unloaded guns. It also grouped cases in which a gun was used to threaten somebody with cases in which it was not. In other words, it conflated the very sorts of differentiating factors most relevant to judges in weighing whether jail is merited in individual cases. (Judge Morin, for example, cited unloaded weapons and nonviolent intentions as mitigating factors when he decided against jail for Arenas.)

And because it was restricted to felony gun possession, the survey didn't tell us if prosecutors typically opted to prosecute cases like Arenas' as felonies or as misdemeanors. Nor could it have: The number of cases involving unloaded, legally owned guns employed in some kind of bluff, joking or otherwise, would have been too small to yield statistically meaningful patterns. Anecdotal evidence, however, suggests that roughly comparable cases in the District are likely to be settled with misdemeanor convictions on a lesser charge, possession of an unregistered firearm.

One example of a defendant who pleaded guilty to that charge: Javaris Crittenton. Witness testimony and the logic of Crittenton's own story—he says he brought his gun to the Verizon Center for self-defense—suggest his gun was loaded. But Crittenton denied this (a denial prosecutors seemed eager to credit) and was let off with a year of unsupervised probation.

The Tabloid Heckler

If Arenas, a sometimes exasperating but often endearingly free-spirited man-child, was recast as an unhinged, gun-slinging score settler, it was thanks largely to a stream of sloppy and sensationalized reporting by the influential New York Post NBA columnist Peter Vecsey and various collaborators. Among the falsehoods that did the most to distort perceptions was his report, published on January 1, that Arenas and Crittenton had actually drawn guns on each other, with Arenas drawing first. (The co-written "exclusive" also incorrectly claimed that the incident took place on Christmas Eve.)

Arenas had real reason to fear the impact such articles would have on the audiences that mattered most to him. The Post quoted Billy Hunter, executive director of the NBA Player's Association, calling the incident "unprecedented in the history of sports" and taking the paper's account of the incident at face value: "I've never heard of players pulling guns on each other in a locker room." Disconcerting words for Arenas, given that the players association would have responsibility for representing him in any NBA disciplinary proceedings.

Not merely inaccurate, Vecsey's coverage was taunting, the rhetorical equivalent of bear-baiting. In a particularly provocative passage, he gratuitously floated a scenario—betting on NBA games—that would have triggered the lifetime ban he thought Arenas deserved.

Arenas took the bait. In a series of sarcastic Tweets, the Wizards star ridiculed Vecsey's emerging caricature of him and the faulty reporting underlying it. After Vecsey's first story appeared, for example, the player tweeted: "i wake up this morning and seen i was the new JOHN WAYNE…Imao media is too funny."

On January 5, before a game with the Philadelphia 76ers, a smiling Gilbert Arenas was photographed pretending to fire imaginary pistols at laughing teammates gathered around him in a circle. The image and the rest of his behavior that night are properly understood only in the context of his growing obsession with Vecsey's serial smears.

Arenas received some exceptionally angry heckling and booing during the Philadelphia game, evidence of how badly the playful superstar's image had eroded since the locker room escapade. He, of course, knew the Post's tales of "shocking locker-room gunplay" and a "duel…unprecedented in sports history" were wild distortions. So, it's fair to assume, did his teammates, some of whom had witnessed the prank. By January 5 the Wizards season, disappointing even before the gun episode, was on the verge of unraveling as the result of the incident's ongoing unpredictable repercussions. His teammates must have been studying Arenas' moods and body language: How would their go-to player hold up under the mounting pressure? Their response to this crisis hinged on his.

In a bid to lighten the atmosphere—and with a little prompting from teammates—he reenacted a touchdown dance from Oliver Stone's football movie Any Given Sunday, parodying the two-fisted gunslinger he was not. Arenas and his teammates weren't laughing at fears of gun violence in the NBA. They were laughing at fears of Gilbert Arenas. A nonviolent "goofball" (as the player called himself in one tweet) had been morphed into a hothead who threatened violence to settle gambling disputes. Arenas was laughing, and his teammates were laughing with him, because the revised portrait was simply laughable to those who knew him.

After the Philadelphia game, Arenas told reporters he was less worried about the criminal case, since the legal authorities knew the facts, than he was about league punishment, because, he said with a twinkle in his eye, NBA Commissioner David Stern "is mean." More seriously, he explained, "Most likely he's getting a lot of pressure, because there are a lot of stories going around, to…act before" prosecutors decide whether to bring charges.
The next day, as if in fulfillment of his fears, Stern suspended Arenas indefinitely, saying, "His ongoing conduct has led me to conclude that he is not currently fit to take the court in an NBA game." League sources told ESPN.com that the player's actions and words in Philadelphia had prompted Stern to act immediately rather than let the legal process run its course.

Stern's statement was short on specifics, but there was something chilling about the commissioner's emerging motives. "League officials," ESPN.com reported, "were incensed by the way Arenas mocked the reactions of the media and public toward his behavior on his Twitter page and in comments to reporters—even before Tuesday's actions in Philadelphia."

With both the criminal and league investigations of what happened in the Wizards locker room still unfolding, the commissioner must have realized that he lacked a solid factual basis for umpiring the dispute between Arenas and his tabloid accuser. Yet with public anger at Arenas cresting, Stern pressed his own thumb on the scales. In sidelining Arenas for mocking the press's distortions, he implicitly vouched for their veracity.

Consequences

Arenas escaped a prison sentence, but he has not escaped punishment. The star has forfeited more than $7 million in salary and lost a shoe contract with Adidas worth an estimated eight figures. He has been stigmatized with a felony conviction. He has been humiliated with publicity proportional to his fame: After endorsing his suspension, his own team excised him from its pre-game video introductions, pulled down a large banner of him displayed outside the arena, stopped selling Arenas jerseys, and (according to press reports) even explored the option of voiding the remaining four years of his six-year, $111 million contract, despite an NBA rule prohibiting punishment of a player by both the league and the team for the same violation.

And halfway houses are not B&Bs. At the Montgomery County Pre-Release Center in Rockville, Maryland, where Arenas was incarcerated, just 5 percent of the offenders were, like him, probationers sent there in lieu of prison, according to Arthur Wallenstein, the county's director of corrections. The other 95 percent were transitioning ex-cons. In the assignment of rooms, which are shared, there is no policy of segregating probationers from ex-cons, some of whom, Wallenstein says, have done "super heavy-duty" prison time.

But it's only in the context of his playing career that one sees the full impact of the punishment imposed on Arenas, a once-dominating force on the court whose skills, charisma, and crunch-time heroics often rivaled those of Le-Bron James and Kobe Bryant. His season-ending suspension fell on a player struggling to come back after having missed virtually all of the two preceding seasons in the prime of his career due to injury. Based on his pre-suspension play this season, where the rust was discernible more in his mental than his physical game, it's reasonable to expect it will take him close to half of next season before returning to form. By that time he will be turning 29, and at that age his performance probably will not return to peak levels.

The effective loss of a season translates to perhaps 20 percent of Arenas' remaining career, maybe even more for a player with surgically repaired knees whose game depends on lightning quickness. Barring a trade—and who wants a rusty felon with an injury history and $72 million left on his contract?—Arenas will be starting over on a rebuilding team whose management has soured on him. As an already disappointing season disintegrated altogether following the loss of its star player, the Wizards blew up the once playoff-contending core that they had been patiently assembling for years, trading away their two other stars in midseason. With the team's hopes for the future vested in its number one pick in the NBA draft—likely to be John Wall, who plays Arenas' point guard position—Arenas now represents the unfulfilled expectations of its recent past.

Just imagine if his guns had been loaded.

The previous sentence is purely rhetorical. NBA Commissioner David Stern already has a track record of punishing offenses involving loaded guns, even the firing of shots. In those cases, transgressors were punished far less severely than Arenas.

The Arenas suspension is, believe it or not, the third most drastic non–drug-related suspension in NBA history, trailing only those meted out to two of the league's more notorious reprobates: 68 games to Latrell Sprewell, for choking his Golden State Warriors coach P.J. Carlesimo, and 86 games to then–Indiana Pacer Ron Artest, for triggering a near-riot in Detroit's Palace of Auburn Hills when he ran into the stands and punched a fan he erroneously believed had flung a cup of Diet Coke at him.

In designing measured punishments, one compares offenses and offenders, weighing personal factors such as character and disciplinary history. Gilbert Arenas did have a previous offense on his record: a similar 2003 misdemeanor conviction for failing to obtain California registration for a gun he'd legally owned in neighboring Arizona. He is eccentric, impulsive, and childlike; a serial prankster; his own worst enemy. But comparing Gilbert Arenas to Latrell Sprewell or Ron Artest is like comparing Inspector Clouseau to Inspector "Dirty Harry" Callahan.
Previously, the longest NBA suspension for a gun-related offense lasted all of seven games. It was imposed on Stephen Jackson after he pleaded guilty to a felony count of criminal recklessness for firing five shots near an Indianapolis strip club in 2006, while he was a member of the Indiana Pacers. And this followed Jackson's 30-game suspension in 2004 for charging into the stands with Artest and throwing punches at fans.

More recently, in April 2007, Sebastian Telfair was arrested in New York after police found a loaded .45 caliber handgun under the front passenger seat of his car. He had been driving 77 miles per hour in a 45-mph zone with a suspended Florida license. After Telfair pleaded guilty in October 2008 to criminal possession of a weapon, the NBA suspended him for three games.

If the Arenas suspension was just about guns and, as Stern put it, the "health and safety of our players," how on earth can it be squared with the commissioner's hands-off response thus far in the case of Cleveland Cavaliers guard and D.C. native Delonte West? Last September, just months before the Arenas incident, West, driving a three-wheeled motorcycle, was pulled over on the Capital Beltway by a police officer he'd cut off in traffic. West, who has been treated for bipolar disorder, was carrying three loaded guns: a 9-mm Beretta in his waistband, a Ruger .357 magnum strapped to his leg, and a shotgun in a guitar case slung over his back while he was driving. But he has yet to lose a single game to league punishment. His trial on weapons charges has been repeatedly postponed, most recently until July 21, and Stern is awaiting the outcome before acting, as he usually does when a criminal case is pending.

As NBA commissioner, Stern is indeed charged with policing this area. Under rule 9a of the sweeping new gun restrictions added to the league's 2005 collective bargaining agreement, he is arguably bound to punish gun possession on league grounds or league business with special severity—and the Jackson, Telfair, and West cases reviewed above each took place, unlike Arenas', off-campus and off the clock. But Stern has been erratic even in enforcing rule 9a. In 2006, Telfair—him again—was suspended just two games and fined after a loaded pistol registered to his girlfriend was found in his pillowcase aboard the team plane.

The Arenas suspension seems even more incommensurate relative to recent punishments for dangerous offenses unrelated to guns. For example, Phoenix suspended Jason Richardson for just one game after he was arrested for driving 95 miles per hour in a 35 mph zone with an unrestrained 3-year-old in the back seat. Later the same year, after his wild ride, the NBA suspended Richardson two games for a DUI bust the previous December. And the league suspended the Denver Nuggets' J.R. Smith just seven games after he pled guilty to reckless driving in an incident that resulted in the death of a passenger in his car. His previous driving record had included five license suspensions in one recent period of less than a year.

The Scapegoat

In his exchange with the press following the Philadelphia game in January, Arenas made a telling remark that attracted relatively little notice. "I've looked at some of the other charges that have been brought against other people, and they were [suspended for] three to five games," he said, according to NBAFanhouse.com.
Arenas had obviously done his homework. In studying David Stern's record, he understandably assumed his own punishment wouldn't be very severe, since there was a consistently wide gap between the commissioner's anti-gun rhetoric and his disciplinary actions. As it happened, someone else was raking over that dubious record in the first week of January and posing some embarrassing questions about it: Peter Vecsey.

In a January 3 column, the columnist derided that "measly 3-game suspension" given Sebastian Telfair for bringing a loaded gun aboard a team flight. (It was actually an even measlier two-game suspension.) "What happens if a fight gets out of hand on a plane at 30,000 feet in today's heightened hostile world," Vecsey wondered, "and a loaded gun is brandished…and used?"

And what was to stop Delonte West, still untouched by league action, from sneaking guns into the arena "and, on a particularly moody blues day," Vecsey needled, "blasting everybody in sight?" Were players subject to bag inspections and metal detectors like everyone else, he demanded, or were they allowed to "waltz past guards at the door because they are who they are?"

It seems likely that such questions were ?receiving too much public attention for Stern's liking. An emerging story line needed to be nipped in the bud. Before he stood revealed as a paper tiger, Stern needed a scapegoat. Arenas fit the bill.

You can question Stern's fairness and wisdom in the Arenas case, but you can't question his authority. Under league rule 35d, Stern is free to punish any word or deed he deems "prejudicial or detrimental" to the NBA. Explaining the drastic suspension to reporters in a January 27 conference call, Stern admitted that while it was partly about "health and safety," it was also about "the overall image of our players."

Under this subjective standard, Stern had sufficient cause to punish the besmirched and isolated Arenas with a severity completely out of proportion to his offense and in defiance of all relevant precedent. Gilbert Arenas became a symbol of liberal fears about the spread of guns and conservative disgust with cosseted, anti-?social pro athletes who think they're above the law. Those two blocs turned in tandem against Arenas, who became an all-too-convenient whipping boy.

Daniel Wattenberg (danielwattenberg@yahoo.com) is a writer in Washington, D.C.

Editor's Note: This article originally misidentified the home venue of the Detroit Pistons.

NEXT: Backlash Against Anthony Graber's Arrest

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  1. This is one time that that the race card really should be played. Pants wetting white liberal sports writers see a black man with a gun and freak out. If Brett Farve took his $5,000 Italian over under shotgun into the locker room to show it off, no one would have said a word. It is only because Arenas is black that anyone did anything.

    1. I normally don’t like to bring race into a debate such as this but you do have a point there.

    2. For that matter, the Browns’ Sean Rogers is going to be suspended for forgetting about the Kimber in his luggage and taking it to the airport, but nobody gave a shit when Barry Switzer did the same thing a few years ago. Black people are just not to be trusted with guns, apparently.

    3. Pretty true, though I think that if Karl Malone did the same thing with one of his hunting weapons people would have been cool about it as well.

      1. Good point about Malone who is as big of a redneck as Farve. It should be Pants wetting white liberal sports writers see an inner city black man with a gun and freak out.

        1. You forgot uppity inner city black man, John. It’s the uppity that gets the white libs’ panties in a wad. Remember, the inner city youth owes all his success to the social engineering of the Left. Proper deference must be observed.

      2. Good point. It seems like a lot of what appears to be racism is in fact economic discrimination. The argument seems to come down to a fear of poor people having guns.

        1. IDK, i think most people, if caught doing this by their employer, whould be luck to have the chance to come to work the following year.
          Government control is different than workplace rules regarding conduct. Their is no grey area in the NBA’s policy and every player knows about it. If you’re paying people millions per year, you have a say in what kind of wepons they can have with them. The NBA seems on track, the laws are what they are and same with the media.

    4. Hold on, this is not a fair point. He didn’t bring his gun to show off its fine craftsmanship. He brought it
      to talk shit relating to a fight/argument. I’m not saying everything that followed is therefore ok, but the example of the Italian shotgun is a very different circumstance.

      1. What Arenas did was perfectly legal just a few feet away in Virginia. So it was either an unspeakable crime, punishable by fine, imprisonment, loss of career, public shame…or no big deal at all, depending upon your GPS location.

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  2. At least it didn’t go off in his sweat pants in a crowded nightclub.

    1. I’m talking about a handgun.

      1. A local reminder to keep the safety on when you carry. Ouch.

        1. Are you in this area, Dagney? Are you in the city near Epi? If so, I’m sorry.

          1. Yes, and yes. His horrific odor permeates my once beloved Seattle.

            1. Yeah, I have the pristine Puget Sound to drown out the stench.

              1. We don’t get any of that stench over here in Port Angeles.

        2. That is a Darwin Award winner.

          1. If the injury is as extensive as I suspect, he will not be passing on his genes. Talk about a double nut punch from Herr Darwin.

        3. Or don’t buy cheap ass Glocks that have no manual safety.

          1. Glocks are great weapons. The best safety is your finger.

          2. Revolvers don’t need safeties; neither do autos.

            1. Nothing ‘needs’ a safety. However, having one can greatly reduce the incidence of accidental discharge.

        4. Another acceptable method is to refrain from carrying one’s pistol such that its muzzle points at one’s twig and berries.

          1. Use a proper holster? But that’s not what all the guys i watch on TV do.

            I suppose next you’re going to tell me that firing the gun while holding it sideways is a bad idea too. Geez.

            1. It is no coincidence that those in Hollywood who are the least capable of depicting an accurate use of firearms on television or in the cinema are also those most likely to support legal restrictions of firearms use.

            2. If you like I can machine some custom mounts so you can put an optical sight on the side of that Galil you’ve had your eye on. It could serve the dual function of a brass deflector to keep the spent cases from hitting you in the face too.

  3. This is when stupid should be illegal.

    1. I assume you’re talking about Stern or Vecsey. In which case, I agree.

      1. Arenas placed four unloaded handguns on the chair in front of Crittenton’s cubicle in the team’s locker room with a note that read, “PICK 1.”

        That is fucking stupid, irresponsible, ignorant, retarded, and moronic through and through.

        The rest is just as retarded, but the whole thing starts there and is the source of all stupidity of this situation.

        It would have been better as a double homicide, the gene pool could use some cleansing.

        1. For shame.

          Maybe if our society wasn’t so PC and would switch to boxers instead of the panties they wear that keep wadding, they would see a joke for what it is. But as long as someone somewhere at some time is having fun, the state hasn’t gone far enough.

          God save the country if I ever run for office haha. Not that it’ll really matter. I’ll have the political foibles of Rand Paul and the politically incorrectness of Bill Maher or possibly even Lewis Black. Yeah, I’ll get far

  4. a once-dominating force on the court whose skills, charisma, and crunch-time heroics often rivaled those of Le-Bron James and Kobe Bryant.

    A good article criticizing others for hyperbole, then you uncork this?

    1. It’s actually pretty true. Look at his numbers for the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 seasons. Plus he was the first big time basketball player blogging.

      1. Apparently, however, a handgun is the only form of defense that Arenas has ever contemplated.

      2. Exactly. Arenas’s regular season scoring average over his last three full seasons ? 2004-05, 05-06, 06-07 ? was virtually identical to LeBron’s, slightly lower than Kobe’s. In his last playoff series while healthy, in 2005-06 against LeBron’s Cavs, he averaged 34 points over the 6 games. Kobe has never averaged as much for a full post-season. And Gilbert had a flair for the dramatic. There were a couple years there when he seemed able with the game on the line to get to the hoop almost at will and either finish or draw a foul. Or coolly sink an unforced 3-pointer from further behind the line than others would even think of shooting except in desperation. He scored 61 against Kobe in LA in his last full season before injuries struck, and the playoff duel with James in 05-06 was one for the ages.

        That said, Arenas is an indifferent defender (although he had a knack for timely steals), not in the same league as the other two. But I hedged the comparison in the article, saying only that he “often rivaled” those two. “Consistently rivaled” would have been hyperbole. I think “often” is defensible. Curious what others who saw alot of Arenas at his peak have to say on the subject.

    2. I absolutely agree. Arenas at his best was a gunner who never shot a high percentage and who couldn’t play defense to save his life. Sure he had a couple seasons where he averaged a lot of points, but he averaged a lot of points on a mediocre team. He also turned the ball over a lot and wasn’t a very good passer given that he played the point guard position. Unfortunately many observers of the game of basketball remain fixated on the points per game stat line and ignore the other elements that really make the difference between contending for championships and going home early for the summer. Arenas, even if he does manage to come back from this suspension (and I wish him all the best in doing so) will likely never be on a contending team because his game does not lend itself to championship level ball.

  5. Here’s another thing Arenas did:
    * Violate NBA policy on guns in a locker room.
    Whatever happened to private organizations can do what they want with their employees?

    1. Sure they can. But, the right to do something doesn’t relieve you of being criticized when that something is a stupid overreaction. And the real injustice in this case is not what the NBA did, but what the DC prosecutors did.

      1. But let’s not pretend that Arenas is being scapegoated, like the author is making out to be. The main difference between this incident and the Delonte West incident is that it happened on league property and was using them in a threatening manner*. Arenas only has himself to blame for this.

        I’m sorry Daniel Wattenberg had to watch a crappy Wizard’s team this year, but thanks to this incident, he gets to watch John Wall.

        * And yes placing 4 guns in front of a guys locker is using them in a threatening manner. It says, in essence, choose the gun you want me to shoot you with.

        1. “And yes placing 4 guns in front of a guys locker is using them in a threatening manner.”

          Oh STFU with that. What do you think those weapons are going to do? go off by magic? Using a weapon in a threatening manner is pointing it at them. And unlike the West incident, this incident was a prank. West really is deranged.

          1. Repeat after me John. “Guns are not toys.”

            If Crittendon misinterpreted the “prank” it could have had horrific consequences.

            1. How could it have had “horrific consequences” you dope? Were the unloaded guns that were not being held by anyone going to magically load themselves and go off?

              1. Crittendon didn’t think it was just a joke. He said that he only carried a gun with him because he felt genuinely threatened and feared for his life. It’s possible that he could have acted first in preemptive self-defense.

                1. “Preemptive” self defense is an oxymoron, unless, of course, you are talking about the US invasion of Iraq, then it was a terrific idea.

              2. Sorry, John, I’m with Mo and Winter Soldier below: it was a threat and it violated league rules. No sympathy from me.

                1. Perception is reality, especially in a sport that’s had image problems. The NBA is entertainment supported by advertising and fans. If the advertisers and fans aren’t buying, you have no product. If anything, this article’s main thesis is that the other players should have gotten heavier penalties, not that Arenas should have gotten a lighter one. Truth of the matter is, if I were the face of my company (Arenas for sure was), had behaved similarly and clients heard about it, my bosses would be embarassed and would definitely fire me. Not suspend me for a year, fire me (unless I was a teacher, then I would get a year of paid vacation while they studied the incident). While Vecsey should be chided for terrible journalism and the prosecutor should be chided for grandstanding, the fault lies with Arenas. This situation has very little to do with Heller or gun rights, and almost everything to do with a company’s right to decide how to discipline an employee who violated one of its policies.

            2. But you’re wrong. Guns are the adult male’s toys, as are power tools.

              Yes, as a sports figure he should have been smarter with so many young people possibly looking up to him. But to say one cannot have fun anymore simply because guns are involved is like saying one can’t study anymore because a TV or computer is involved. Ever hear of edutainment?

        2. And like it or not, Arenas is a star and West is not. Because of this, he is and probably should be held to a higher standard because his actions have a more direct effect on revenue.

    2. this. Arenas violated league rules. The league meted out their punishment. Suck it up bitch . . .

      1. Except that the subject was the NBA’s rules so much as the actions of the public prosecutors.

        1. “wasn’t” (and I used preview).

        2. I disagree. If Arenas had received this sentence and no suspension from the NBA, this article never gets written. If it does, it’s a paragraph and not 4 pages.

          1. What makes you say this?

    3. That just gets in the way of the race whining angle. We all know the NBA is a bastion of institutional racism.

      Please try to find a more unsympathetic “victim” than that bunch of millionaire (temporarily) thugs.

      1. It has nothing to do with the racism of the NBA. The NBA is one of the most racially progressive sports leagues in the world. There are coaches of all races and tons of great minority GMs.

        The NBA has to be careful and worry about a predominately white, suburban fan base and a predominately black, urban group of players. Hell, look at the collective freakout by people with the Artest melee compared to how people didn’t react to O’Reilly and the Bruins charging the stands in the 70s. Or compare how the Kermit Washington punch is considered a vile crime, but the McHale clotheslining of Rambis is good, tough playoff basketball.

        1. There is no comparison between the McHale clothes line and the Kermit Washington punch. Washington destroyed Thomjonovich’s face. It ruined Washington’s career. He felt guilty about it forever. The McHale clothes line was no worse than about 15 other plays that happened that playoff season. And if you will remember Rambis took revenge by pushing McHale from behind into about the third row later in the series. And the McHale play is was better than the famous Dr. J cheapshot of Bird where Erving’s teammates held Bird’s arms while Erving hit him in the face multiple times, all for the sin of Bird absolutely destroying Erving in that game.

          1. The McHale play was a dirty cheap play. It’s hilarious to hear Celtics fans bitch and moan about how dirty the Bad Boy Pistons teams were when the Celtics were just as dirty and cheap shot artists.

            1. It wasn’t anymore of a dirty play than any other plays that happened back then. That was just how basketball was played. The Pistons since they lacked any skill player beyond Isiah Thomas just took to a level that basically ruined basketball. The entire world owes Michael Jordan a debt for putting an end to them and their style of play, although Riley and his crap ass Knicks teams tried hard to bring it back in the 1990s.

              1. Lacked skill? Rodman is the greatest rebounder ever. Dumars and Dantley were great players and the Microwave was a great weapon off the bench.

                1. Rodman was the greatest rebounder for his size ever. He was not anywhere near the rebounder Bill Russel or Wilt Chamberlain were. He also had absolutely no offensive skills. Dumars was admittedly a very good player, although he has no business being in the Hall of Fame.

              2. There are so many things fundamentally incorrect about John’s comment that I just give up.

                Much the same way that we get the government we deserve, we get the NBA that we collectively deserve, too. Which is why I don’t watch any more. So thanks for that, mouthbreather.

                1. Ugh, whatever the merits of the argument about Arenas, can we please dispense with the both trite and untrue “we get the government we deserve” bullshit?

              3. I’m not so sure Jordan’s teams weren’t just as big a collection of cheap shot artists as were the Pistons. Remember Bill “Mr. Elbow” Cartwright? Plus don’t forget that the Bulls employed the services of three former Piston “Bad Boys” during their championship runs: James Edwards, John Salley, and most significantly Dennis Rodman.

                As for the Pistons, I couldn’t disagree more. The average player in their starting five wasn’t as talented on as were those of the eighties Lakers or Celtics, but everyone was an above average player and so were the first three off the bench.

                Bill Laimbeer – four time all-star selection, led league in total rebounding twice
                James Edwards – played 19 years in the NBA, with a career average close to 13 points per game
                Mark Aguirre – three time all-star selection
                Joe Dumars – six time NBA all star, four time first team all-defensive team, NBA finals MVP in 1989 (27 ppg average in the championship round)
                Isiah Thomas – twelve time all-star selection, 1990 finals MVP, named one of 50 greatest NBA players

                The bench:

                Vinnie Johnson – played thirteen years in the NBA, averaged twelve points per game for his career

                Dennis Rodman – two time defensive player of the year, seven time all-defensive team selection, led NBA in rebounding seven consecutive years (all-time record)

                John Salley – thirteen year NBA career, first player in history to win championship rings with three different teams

                I guess what I’m saying is that the Piston’s lineup when weighed against other NBA champions actually compares pretty favorably. Most NBA championship teams, particularly in the last twenty years, have featured one superstar along with one or two additional all-stars, with the remaining spots held by average players. The Pistons had five players that played significant minutes who were multiple time all-stars at some point during their careers. Your argument that they were unskilled just doesn’t hold.

        2. The “freakout” seems appropriate given the perpetrator injured/attempted to injure a bunch of customers. Was the reaction of blacks to Denny’s a “freakout”? I think not. In both cases, customers reacted appropriately to being treated poorly by those they patronize.

      2. What the hell kind of sense does that make? So because Arenes makes millions it is okay to screw him over?

        1. See my post upthread, John. I explained this.

        2. The fact that he is ridiculously well paid enhances the fact that his employer is entitled to hold him to a higher standard than, say, a burger flipper. Sorry – still don’t see how anybody but gilbert “screwed” Gilbert. Too stupid to undertsand your contract? Cest la vive.

        3. It doesn’t in my opinion.

          Far too much attention these days is being given to player and sports league/association image.

          With players, they’re Americans and individuals just like the rest of us. They are exceptionally good athletes. Part of that is talent, and the rest comes mostly from the fact they worked very hard to get there. Why wouldn’t that deserve the going rate of pay. And not all make millions, and it should make no difference if they make billions. Whether it’s sports, or those who work in Hollywood having to hide their political views if those views are not extreme left, or any comparable situation it makes me uncomfortable.

          No good has ever come of any society that expects it’s members to march lock step or be punished and that’s the more far reaching implication here, a general attitude demanding conformity from private citizens.

          Additionally, the making of examples with intention of serving to deter others, as well as of scape-goats, are two practices I have always felt are unacceptable in any situation.

          1. Completely agree person with the Pi sign thingy.

  6. Oh wow, that actually amkes a lot of sense dude. Well done.

    Lou
    http://www.Anonymous-VPN.de.tc

    1. How is it possible to amkes a lot of sense? Please explain this, we are after all, mere humans.

    2. OK Liz, what have done with our regular Lou Bot, the one who was starting to amke sense?

  7. an image-conscious NBA.

    Huh?

    1. Ceci n’est pas une NBA.

    2. Kind of like 50 cent is concerned about his image – he wouldn’t want to be caught on camera coming out of the estate palnning attorney’s office. Bad for the image.

      1. You may wish to add the disclaimer from The Story of Gangstalicious to that:

        The following is a completely fictional work of satire. Any similarities with actual rappers is totally, completely, coincidental.
        Also, I ain’t dissin’ nobody’s city, or region, or… whatever geographic affiliation you got. I love everybody.

        Seriously. I really don’t want any of you niggas running up on me at the club. I don’t have no crew, and they don’t pay me enough to hire bodyguards. I know how ya’ll niggas do. It’s just jokes, man.

        Dictated. Not read.

        The management

  8. Persecution, really?

    I’ve had close to 40 jobs in my life. If, in the course of any of those jobs, I showed up and withdrew a gun from my backpack and held it down at my waist while challenging a co-worker to pick up another of 4 guns, I’d be fired. The second amendment to the constitution did not enact the code duello.

    And while Washington’s guns laws may suck, let’s not pretend this is some sort of act of civil disobedience. I don’t like laws against pot, but if I openly display my reefer collection, I really can’t complain if I catch a criminal charge.

    There are better poster children for gun rights than this ass-clown.

    1. I’m guessing you don’t mean Plaxico.

    2. Have to say, you make a good point. Arenas’ employer has the right to protect his co-workers from his stupid-ass mock “duel,” assuming it was mock in the first place, and that Arenas and Crittenton’s after-the-fact claims that “psh, we were just kiddin’, yo” are worth anything. How can you claim you felt to be in imminent danger, then later claim it was a harmless prank? Hmm.

      How many other men in that locker room knew those guns were all unloaded and totally harmless? None of us would want a couple of assclowns having a loud, threat-filled argument and waving and tossing guns (loaded or not, we wouldn’t know) around us at our jobs.

      This wasn’t show-and-tell like the Brett Favre example at top; it was a couple of loudmouthed thugs rattling/baring/threatening to use weapons that have no place in their workplace.

      My sympathy for this guy isn’t even measurable with an electron microscope. He had to know he’d be used as a whipping boy and target practice for every grandstanding political nutsack who claims to “make the safety of the children” his priority. That’s why he got the over-the-top sentence; he was made an example of, obviously. That’s what happens when you’re both (1) a dumbass, and (2) a pro sports player.

      1. The absence of cartridges could serve as a possible clue in determining whether or not the duel was mock.

        None of us would want a couple of assclowns having a loud, threat-filled argument and waving and tossing guns (loaded or not, we wouldn’t know) around us at our jobs.

        Like unbearable pain the threshold at which individuals will find threat unacceptable isn’t a fixed point, it varies widely. As a former athlete it was my observation that athletes in general participating within the sports I played had considerably higher thresholds for both than members of the general public.

        Within highly competitive sports the “psyching-out” of an opponent or opponents is common strategy. It’s not uncommon for the practice to be employed between team mates messing around. Unless it goes too far and someone is injured, which I’ve seen happen, it’s not exactly anything anyone is going to panic over. It wouldn’t be a good psyche-out if someone wasn’t frightened.

        It’s not like working at a post office and one of your fellow workers walked into the mail room and pulled an Uzi out of his mail pouch.

        If I had been there when it happened I may have decided it would be wise to step behind cover, an action in itself that would most likely, if anyone had witnessed it, been a point in later sessions remembering the incident. Why? Because the psyche-out was so good it got me even though it wasn’t directed at me.

        I wasn’t there so have no way of knowing, but neither were you. Neither of us can know, I simply have reason to question the validity of the portion of your argument in question in this particular case.

        1. Maybe I just got the advanced firearms training, but I was taught to assume guns are loaded, even if I know they are not. I can tell you that I have seen several patients injured by firearms that they could have sworn were unloaded or safetied. If I see someone bring out a gun, I don’t go up to that person to inquire about the presence or absence of cartridges.

          And I’m sorry, but the whole “psyche out” angle doesn’t wash. There are legitimate sports mind games that are played (and I am also a former athlete), but brandishing weaponry, even if unloaded, does not fall within that realm. This is particularly true in today’s sports world, where if a player stops for an order of curly fries it’s on ESPN.

      2. Your fetish for using the words “ass” and “boys” has been duly noted.

        1. I’m a girl, so um, the problem is again?

  9. I wouldn’t be surprised if Stern told Vescey what spin he wanted, then used that coverage as an excuse to levy a huge “image” suspension on a player he already hated.

    He did it to the whole ESPN crew after the “Artest melee,” which none of the studio commentators regarded as Artest’s doing the time. Ben Wallace started a fight, the Pistons crowd ganged up on Artest, then on the whole Pacers team, then Artest lost it, after shit was already totally out of control. Live, it was Wallace’s fight, and the escalation was blamed entirely on failed arena security. By morning SportsCenter, it was all “Artest!”?from the same guys who’d said otherwise eight hours earlier.

    John Wall, who plays Arenas’ point guard position

    ?

    1. To be fair to Artest – he is functionally retarded.

  10. It would be interesting to see this through to appeal. The MA SJC rulled last year that unlicensed possession of a firearm amounts to a “victimless” regulatory matter.

    http://www.boston.com/news/loc…..ictimless/

    Something tells me that if judges in MA can see through the holes in firearms regulations, the rest of the country isn’t far behind. Seems to be yet another house of cards ready to collapse under it’s own weight.

  11. I’m pretty sure I’d get fired for openly displaying a collection of handguns at work. Especially if it involved taunting another employee.

  12. Daniel, Daniel, Daniel.
    I can tell you don’t have much use for guns, personally. Which is cool. Whatever, dude.

    But if you’re going to write about people brandishing guns, bringing a bunch of pistols to work, that kind of thing . . .

    You need to tell us what kind of guns they were. Is Gilbert rocking some ridiculous chrome-plated .50 AE? Classically functional 1911 .45s? Butt-ugly but uberfunctional Glocks? Solid Austrian iron in 9mm? What?

    1. RC, you may find the following link interesting. In it are very low-resolution photos and brief descriptions of the four pistols. And you called it: one of them is a gold-plated .50 Deagle.

      (For the link-averse, Gil also had a .500 S&W Magnum, a Kimber Eclipse in .45, and a 9mm Browning with “extended magazine”. Other than the Deagle—and I think as a wealthy young urban male, he’s contractually obligated to own one—not terrible taste. Wonder if the Browning’s a collectible?)

  13. Stern didn’t ban Arenas (and cost him $7 million) for the guns in the locker room, he banned him for pointing his fingers as if they were guns, a few days later (and for making Stern look foolish, of course)! Talk about a punishment out of proportion to the “crime”!

    1. Excellent point that is missed by many commenters on here. The league suspension was in direct connection to his actions pending the outcome of the legal situation. He (Arenas) continued to act aloof of the situation, because he had researched the prior sentences, knew nothing bad had happened, etc.

      Whatever happened to the adage “No blood/harm, no foul” in sports?

  14. Conspiracy theory here — Arenas was punished so severely because the Wizards didn’t want to pay his salary. Chances are, this will be used to void the remainder of his contract.

  15. I’d like to know, if it is illegal to carry an unloaded gun anywhere other than within one’s home, how does one get a legally purchased gun from the store to the home? Additionally, does “within the home” include the yard? T. Jefferson wrote: “The constitutions of most of our states (and of the United States) assert that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed; that they are entitled to freedom of person, freedom of religion, freedom of property and freedom of the press.” That sounds pretty damn clear to me!

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