SBD/Issue 94/Leagues & Governing Bodies

NBA Suspends Arenas, Crittenton Without Pay For Rest Of Season

Arenas Receives Third-Longest
Suspension In NBA History
NBA Commissioner David Stern yesterday suspended Wizards Gs Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton "without pay for the remainder of the season after they displayed handguns during a locker room dispute last month," according to Michael Lee of the WASHINGTON POST. Stern reached his decision after an "hour-long meeting with Arenas." The commissioner later released a statement, reiterating that guns "would not be tolerated" in the NBA. Two NBA sources noted that Stern was "contemplating suspending Arenas for 82 games but elected for remainder of the season after talking" with NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter. Arenas' 50-game suspension, dating back to January 6, is the third longest in NBA history behind Ron Artest (86 games) and Latrell Sprewell (68 games). Crittenton's 38-game penalty would be the fourth-longest in league history. Prior to this, the NBA's "longest suspension for a gun-related offense was seven games," which Stephen Jackson received in '06. While Arenas asked the NBPA "not to challenge Stern's decision," the union said that Crittenton "has not reached a decision on whether he would file an appeal." Lee cites a source as indicating that Arenas during yesterday's meeting asked Stern about the possibility of having the four years and $80M left on his contract voided by the Wizards. Stern reportedly replied, "That would be left up to the team." Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld last night said, "We haven't made any kind of decisions, but we are exploring all our options" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/28).

STERN WARNING: Stern during an interview on NBA TV last night noted guns in the locker room violates the league's CBA and said, "They'd been warned about that at the beginning of each season in writing and with a visit from team security to team meetings." He added, "I decided that it just can't be tolerated and each of them was suspended for the rest of the year. ... I would've done more if I didn't believe their contrition and their sincerity." When asked if the players' violation of DC law or NBA policy was "more significant," Stern said, "NBA policy. It's not that the other isn't significant, but it doesn't concern me at the moment. At the moment, what I was dealing with was players who violated a specific prohibition agreed to by their union and the NBA that there will not be guns in any NBA facilities. They violated that, put themselves in potential danger and they put their teammates in potential danger. It's nothing that we're going to tolerate." Stern added he agreed to sit with Hunter outside of collective bargaining meetings and discuss "how we can deliver the message even stronger than we do today that guns will not be tolerated in NBA facilities" (NBA TV, 1/27). Stern yesterday also said, "If there's any doubt to any of our players about it in the future, we will be dealing with this in an even more severe way" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/28). ESPN's Marc Stein said, "Having guns on league property is what really took this thing to a new level. ... Stern wanted to send a very loud message here that nobody better even think about trying this again" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 1/27).

DON'T PLAY WITH FIREARMS: When asked about what "message the penalties sent" to NBA players, Stern said, "We mean what we say when we say that guns are prohibited from being in our buildings and on team business." He added, "I felt that I should do something to keep Arenas from doing even further damage to himself and I told him that." NBPA President and Lakers G Derek Fisher said, "We respect that process, but from a union perspective we have to protect the short-term and long-term rights of our members, and when members do wrong things or make mistakes, they'll be rightfully punished, and we're just here to make sure that that doesn't go beyond what it should be under the circumstances" (ESPN.com, 1/27).

Some Sources Surprised Arenas'
Suspension Did Not Exceed This Season
TOO LENIENT? Comcast SportsNet's Ivan Carter said of Stern, "He was going to come down hard on this. He had to. It was the image of the league. ... Stern did what he had to do" ("Washington Post Live," Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, 1/27).  ESPN's Michael Wilbon said, "Any pro basketball-circle people ... presumed this would be the penalty" ("PTI," ESPN, 1/27). SI.com's Chris Mannix noted some NBA sources are "surprised the punishment didn't exceed the season-long suspension and push Arenas' ban into the 2010-11 season" (SI.com, 1/27). In Sacramento, Ailene Voisin wrote the suspension is "totally reasonable," and given that Arenas "previously had been cited for possessing an unlicensed gun, the punishment might even be considered lenient" (SACBEE.com, 1/27). In N.Y., Mitch Lawrence writes what Stern "needed to hand out were pink slips." Arenas could have been Stern's "agent for change on guns," but instead "all we got yesterday from the commissioner was tough talk about the current firearm laws on the books." League sources indicated that Stern "never considered a lifetime ban for Arenas or Crittenton." Lawrence: "It was all set up for Stern to make this a watershed moment in NBA history. Surprisingly, he failed to see what he had" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/28).

STERN TAKES THE EARLY LEAD: CBSSPORTS.com's Ken Berger wrote the NBA is "headed for a lockout after next season, and Stern scored the first negotiating victory" yesterday by getting Arenas to accept his suspension without an appeal. Berger cited a source as saying that Hunter offered Stern a "plea bargain by which Arenas and Javaris Crittenton would get leniency in exchange for strengthening" the CBA's prohibition on guns. But Stern "smacked that idea out of the air." Berger: "Make no mistake: It was a sign of things to come." If this situation is "any barometer, Stern let everybody know who's in charge." He played Arenas and Crittenton into a "cataclysmic opening salvo in the looming dispute between owners and players" (CBSSPORTS.com, 1/27).

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD? ESPN's Stein reported the "consensus around the league is that the Wizards would love to void (Arenas') contract if they could be successful doing so." However, there is "almost unanimous agreement that trying to void Arenas' contract wouldn’t be successful. ... So really the only way the Wizards could go forward with a contract void is if Arenas is sentenced to jail time during the season" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 1/27). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser: "They'll move to void the contract. He'll never play for them again. … This is like what happened to Michael Vick" ("PTI," ESPN, 1/27). CBS' Berger noted "short of a trade, the only solution to rid the Wizards of Arenas -- and vice versa -- would be a buyout reaching into the tens of millions." However, with the "transfer of ownership from the family of the late Abe Pollin" to Capitals Owner Ted Leonsis "still up in the air, that's not a realistic option." Meanwhile, Berger noted Arenas will forfeit a total of about $7.1M during the unpaid suspension. A source noted that the money "typically is divided evenly between the NBA and players association charitable foundations." The source added that the league and the union also could "agree to let the Wizards keep the money." But in either case the Wizards "get no break on their luxury tax bill" (CBSSPORTS.com, 1/27).

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