JEFF PEARLMAN

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gilbert-arenas

I’m not going to add anything especially enlightening here, but I’m happy that the NBA seems to be taking this whole Gilbert Arenas mess seriously. His indefinite suspension is certainly warranted.

I was talking with Mike Lewis about this last night. Even though Arenas didn’t actually shoot anyone, and even though he has been, relatively speaking, a good ambassador for the league, the man need to be banished for the remainder of the season. No ifs, ands or buts.

Why? Because—fair or unfair–an example must be set. The gun culture in professional sports has stretched well beyond alarming. It’s downright dangerous. Plaxico Burress shot himself in the leg, which was embarrassing and, ultimately, career-ending. But, in a sense, he got off lucky. It’s a cliche, but guns kill. Sometimes they injure. Sometimes they miss. But often, they result in the termination of somebody’s life. If, as seems to be the case, more than 70 percent of NBA and NFL players carry firearms, it’s only a matter of time before an athlete dies. Or many athletes die.

These aren’t normal people, wired as you and I are. These are people raised to be competitive and, often, combative. They’ve been brought up in war analogies—kill or be killed; only the strong survive; fight to the end; nobody gets the best of me. It’s not about race or class or finances, but about a way of thinking that leads to confrontation and paranoia. Hell, in what other world does a card dispute lead to this? Mafia, maybe. Gangs, perhaps. It’s rare.

I feel bad for Gilbert Arenas, because he doesn’t seem to be a bad person, and I’m sure right now he’s lost and remorseful. But, again, a lesson has to be presented. All athletes hear is that they need a gun … they require a gun … they must have a gun. For protection. For preservation. Yet can anyone come up with a single documented case of a gun actually protecting an athlete? Anyone?

If you have the chance, read Karl Malone’s piece about Arenas and guns. I loathe the NRA, and I hardly share the Mailman’s philosophy. But here, he offers a refreshing perspective.