What would Abe Pollin think of Gilbert Arenas's guns?
Wednesday, January 6, 2010; 4:41 PM
I opened the sports pages today and saw the picture of a bunch of Wizards players yukking it up as Gilbert Arenas ??? thumbs up, index fingers out ??? pretended to shoot them. I was (as I suspect many were) disgusted by these grown men -- and supposed role models -- making sport of something so serious as shooting another human being. And I couldn???t help but wonder how the late Abe Pollin would have reacted. So unsettled was Pollin by the carnage of gun violence that in 1995 he announced he was changing the name of the city???s basketball team. He could not in good conscience promote a team called the Bullets when people -- many of them children -- were losing their lives. Pollin felt the pain personally when his long-time friend, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, died as the result of a gun wielded by an assassin. As he told the New York Times, ???I stood in the spot . . . Rabin was killed. Bullets connote killing, violence, death. Our slogan used to be, ???Faster than a speeding bullet.??? That???s no longer appropriate.??? Pollin knew that tinkering with tradition might anger fans, but principle was more important. Here then is what I suspect would have gone through Pollin's mind. How dare Arenas flout the law and league regulations by bringing firearms into the Verizon Center. How dare he use his young children to try to cover his dangerous behavior. How dare he be so reckless as to use guns to (supposedly) play a joke on a friend? And, how dare his teammates just sit back and laugh. A grand jury is investigating Arenas???s actions and let???s hope it shows him that this really is no laughing matter. Just as importantly, let's hope the National Basketball Association -- which has franchises in cities where drive-by shootings routinely claim young lives -- shows some spine and takes real action against Arenas. He needs to be disciplined and his teammates chastised in order to send the message that guns are not status symbols and that violence is never to be tolerated. In other words, it is time to live up to the example set by Abe Pollin. [UPDATE, 4:15 p.m.: Welcome word now comes that NBA commissioner David Stern has suspended Arenas for an indefinite period, without pay. Stern originally thought it prudent to refrain from any action pending the criminal investigation but, as Stern said in a statement posted on the NBA website, "his ongoing conduct has led me to conclude that he is not currently fit to take the court in an NBA game." Guess Stern had the same reaction to that pic as I did.]