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After 46 years, the Pollin family will likely sell the Wizards during the offseason
It didn't take long before that opinion changed. "Things started to not look so good. So even when my father was around, there was a lot of frustration and concern, but we certainly thought we could turn it around," Robert Pollin said. "But when my father died, my focus obviously changed a lot. Amid all that, then to have the incident with Gilbert, which essentially wrecked the season right there."
Robert Pollin was in Europe on business when he heard about Gilbert Arenas's dispute with teammate Javaris Crittenton, which led to guns being displayed in the locker room. With Abe Pollin's passion against gun violence leading him to change the nickname of the franchise from Bullets to Wizards in 1997, the family was upset and embarrassed by the incident, sending out a scathing statement admonishing Arenas and Crittenton for their behavior.
The incident sparked speculation that the Wizards would look into terminating what was left of the six-year, $111 million contract that Arenas signed in the summer of 2008. Robert Pollin said that it was an option that the family seriously looked into.
"Of course you consider, because it's in the player contract. Moral turpitude is grounds toward voiding a contract, but we were very reluctant to do that," he said. "We haven't done it. It's passed. Were we to pursue that path ¿ which we did not do ¿ we would've done it with a really heavy heart. So, I was very happy that that was not something that we didn't have to think about doing."
Robert Pollin said that he was relieved that Arenas was sentenced to 30 days in a halfway house, two years of probation and 400 hours of community service and fined $5,000. Because he lives in Massachusetts, Pollin admitted he did not know Arenas particularly well but always liked him, as did his father.
"This is not a violent person. This is a person who maybe is immature and makes bad decisions at times, but Gilbert also does a lot of great things," Robert Pollin said. "And he certainly has been as asset to the Wizards, other than this problem and the injuries. Had he not been a fantastic asset, we never would've signed him to the contract.
"It's the very thing that everybody likes about him that got him into trouble, I guess. He is this really playful person and he apparently doesn't know how to control it," he said. "And at this point, it's not coddling a celebrity ¿ everybody deserves another chance. I think it's great that Gilbert will be coming back. He's paying his debt. He is being punished. He did bad things. But now it's time to move on."
The Pollin family is likely moving on in another way, with Irene continuing her work with Sister to Sister, a foundation to promote women's heart health; Jim running a local travel business; and Robert also serving as co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute at U-Mass.
"Let's say it does end up that we don't own the team anymore by next season. It's a tremendous loss," Robert Pollin said. "My father bought the team when I was 13. He didn't buy it as business investment. He bought it for fun. He was a radical sports fan. And I am today. It's an integral part of my life and my relationship with my father. So if there is a big change and we aren't, that will be a difficult step, and we all take difficult steps. Certainly, it won't be as difficult as the loss of my father.
"Obviously, this season has been a big disappointment. But I will always be a big Wizards fan," he said, recalling some of his favorite memories, including seeing Gus Johnson break a backboard as a member of the Baltimore Bullets. "I will always be an NBA fan, even if my family doesn't own the team."