By Frank James
To say it was expected that NBA Commissioner David Stern would take significant action against Washington Wizard's star Gilbert Arenas for having guns in the Verizon Center locker room would be an understatement. On Wednesday, Stern acted: he indefinitely suspended the basketball player without pay. Arenas is in the second year of a $111 million, six-year contract.
In a statement, Stern said:
"The possession of firearms by an NBA player in an NBA arena is a matter of the utmost concern to us. I initially thought it prudent to refrain from taking immediate action because of the pendency of a criminal investigation involving the office of the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia and the Metropolitan Police Department, and the consideration of this matter by a grand jury sitting in the District of Columbia. For the same reason, I directed the Wizards to refrain from taking any action.
Wizards personnel continue to be interviewed by law enforcement authorities, some are scheduled for appearance before the grand jury and the investigation is proceeding with the intensity that one would expect for such a serious incident.
"Although it is clear that the actions of Mr. Arenas will ultimately result in a substantial suspension, and perhaps worse, his ongoing conduct has led me to conclude that he is not currently fit to take the court in an NBA game. Accordingly, I am suspending Mr. Arenas indefinitely, without pay, effective immediately pending the completion of the investigation by the NBA."
This obviously isn't an encouraging statement for Arenas, his lawyers or agent. Most troubling would be this part:
... It is clear that the actions of Mr. Arenas will ultimately result in a substantial suspension, and perhaps worse...
Worse than a suspension? That sounds like Stern is leaving open the possibility of a ban from the NBA.
Meanwhile, Stern talks about Arenas's "ongoing conduct" forcing him "to conclude that he is not currently fit to take the court" which makes it sound like Arenas hasn't done himself any favors by making light of the situation and getting into a spitting match with Al Sharpton on Twitter
Arenas also did something Tuesday night that indicated he wasn't approaching his troubles with the appropriate seriousness. As NBA writer David Aldridge wrote, before the Wizards' 76ers game in Philadelphia, Arenas:
(in a) pregame routine Tuesday night before Washington's game in Philadelphia in which Arenas pretended to "shoot" his teammates with his fingers.
The Wizards' front office issued a statement saying it agreed with Stern's move. Team officials also said they weren't amused by Arenas's pre-game antics or the response of some of the players to him:
"We fully endorse the decision of the NBA to indefinitely suspend Gilbert Arenas. Strictly legal issues aside, Gilbert's recent behavior and statements, including his actions and statements last night in Philadelphia, are unacceptable. Some of our other players appeared to find Gilbert's behavior in Philadelphia amusing. This is also unacceptable. Under Abe Pollin's leadership, our organization never tolerated such behavior, and we have no intention of ever doing so."
Ernie Grunfeld, President, Washington Wizards
Irene Pollin, Principal Owner, Washington Sports and Entertainment (WSE)
Robert Pollin, Chief Executive Officer, WSE
James Pollin, President, WSE
Arenas said he brought the guns to the Verizon Center locker room to get them out of his house after his third child was born.
The New York Post reported that Arenas and teammater Javaris Crittenton pulled guns on each other in the Wizards locker room as part of a dispute over a gambling debt. Crittendon's lawyers has said his client is innocent while Arenas has said he merely displayed his guns in the locker room.
All this matters because Arenas reportedly doesn't have a license for the firearms. Also, Washington, DC's gun laws are among the strictest in the nation.
Thus the investigation by law-enforcement authorities and what's beginning to look like some very significant legal problems for Arenas.