SBD/Issue 85/Franchises

Arenas' Felony Charge Likely Not Enough For Wizards To Void Deal

Arenas Has Four Years, $80M
Left On Contract After '09-10
Suspended Wizards G Gilbert Arenas is expected to plead guilty Friday to a "single felony count of carrying a pistol without a license" in DC, which "would not be enough to allow the Wizards" to void the remainder of his contract, according to sources cited by Wise & Lee of the WASHINGTON POST. Arenas has four years and $80M left on his contract with the Wizards after this season, and a source indicated that the "only way a team can terminate a contact, in addition to the league suspension, would be to meet a very high standard." However, Wise & Lee note "neither side may be interested in reviving the relationship if and when the NBA reinstates" him from indefinite suspension. A source close to Arenas said that the Wizards G believes team President Ernie Grunfeld and other club officials "failed to support him following his locker room confrontation on Dec. 21 with teammate Javaris Crittenton." Grunfeld declined to comment on the matter, but sources said that if Arenas "cannot be traded and his contract cannot be voided, brokering a peace between the team and the player would be difficult" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/15).

POTENTIAL FALLOUT: ESPN.com's J.A. Adande said a guilty felony plea or conviction for Arenas "certainly changes the landscape" of whether the Wizards can void his remaining contract. Adande: "There's a clause in the standard player contract that allows for termination based on moral turpitude. That can be a very vague term. However, felony is very specific. No one doubts the meaning of that" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 1/15). The Washington Post's Michael Lee said if Arenas is charged and convicted of a felony, the Wizards "have all the rights to go after" voiding Arenas' contract. Lee: "If he pleads down to a misdemeanor, then there is no way they can go after his contract." The Post's Mike Wise: "This is business, and if Ernie Grunfeld is going to work for Ted Leonsis in the future -- if Ted Leonsis gets this team -- he needs to be rid of that contract" ("Washington Post Live," Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, 1/14). An NBPA source "vowed to fight any attempt to terminate the contract," but ESPN.com's J.A. Adande reported there are "indications the rank and file would not feel the need to rally around this cause." Would the Arenas case, in which he was "clearly in the wrong in many eyes, be worth winning at the expense of weakening the players' position down the road?" (ESPN.com, 1/14). Meanwhile, TNT's Charles Barkley said, "I don't want the Washington Wizards -- who are a horrible organization I might add -- to use this as a way of saving money. Gilbert should be suspended, but the notion he should he suspended for the rest of the year or kill his contract, which he has $90(M) left -- this is not a $90(M) incident" ("Inside The NBA," TNT, 1/14).

A DIVIDED LOCKER ROOM? YAHOO SPORTS' Adrian Wojnarowski reports this case has "polarized the Wizards' locker room -- pitting the front office and players against each other -- and an unprecedented fight to terminate Arenas' contract could unravel the franchise." A source said, "If they try to terminate his contract and fail, they're in big trouble." Wojnarowski writes the Wizards "marketed and made money on the clown persona that ultimately got Arenas an indefinite suspension by NBA commissioner David Stern, and they don't deserve the salary-cap relief that voiding his contract would give them." The Wizards' organization "isn't a victim of Arenas' recklessness, but a co-conspirator" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/15). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said to "PTI" co-host Michael Wilbon, "You argued -- and I thought rather persuasively -- that to this point the punishment was much worse than the crime. They're taking down his picture, they're not selling his jersey, so on and so forth." Wilbon: "When you're talking about scrubbing someone's face and name from history, I think that ridicule is a little over the top, even for this" ("PTI," ESPN, 1/14).

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