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What would Abe Pollin think of Gilbert Arenas's guns?

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.]

By Jo-Ann Armao  | January 6, 2010; 2:27 PM ET
Categories:  Armao  | Tags:  Jo-Ann Armao  
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I disagree, although obviously gun violence, murder (in any forms), and breaking the law are all serious offenses, every aspect associated with guns should not be chastised. I, for one, do not believe that we as Americans need guns in our daily lives and furthermore disagree with the 2nd amendment. Yet, you discussing one mans warped view of guns (I refer to Pollin) truly holds no grounds in the reprimanding of Arenas. Pollin had a good friend of his killed by a gun, this obviously had a lasting effect on him, as it would any man. This is where the "but" comes in. But, when I think gun, I think technological advancement, resoundingly fast- breaking the speed of sound, guarding our boarders, keeping our nation internally safe. This thought, however, has many flaws. Because guns DO result in murder, rape, and robbery (among other things), I can see how one would associate them firstly with the preceding. Take the San Antonio Spurs for example, some may associate "spurs" with cowboys, cowboys with westward expansion of the 19th century, and westward expansion of cowboys with vigilantes, bank robbers, and outlaws. Should this team change their name? In my opinion, no.
I have strayed from the point, all I think is that Arenas broke a rule, he should be punished accordingly, no more, no less. The issue of morality the author brings up in the second, third, and final paragraphs is obscured and obtuse. Those are her thoughts though, and albeit I disagree with most every word; I respect them. I hope not to have come off as offensive.

Posted by: berg5 | January 6, 2010 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Kudos to Ms Armao for citing Mr. Pollin's legacy as one that the NBA and society should emulate. Prior to Mr. Arenas' behavior last night, I had hoped the NBA would not overreact to his obviously poor judgment, but nonviolent prank on his teammate. Sadly, Mr Arenas does not appear contrite about his wrong doing. The NBA's suspension is to be lauded, as are Ms Armao's earlier remarks.

Posted by: macfiveva | January 6, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

I am not sure what Abe would of thought,but i never once heard him speak out about the death of 1000,s of Palestinians who were removed from their land.Although his friend Rabin was ready to concede some concessions to the Palestinian people,which resulted in his death at the hands of his own people.I think Abe understood guns were good for some and not others.

Posted by: gilliam | January 6, 2010 5:04 PM | Report abuse

let the man rest in peace and dont ask stupid questions about what he would think you and no one in the world knows what a human being is thinking

Posted by: skinzwiz1721 | January 6, 2010 5:54 PM | Report abuse

"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."

Wait a minute--did someone get shot? How dd THAT nugget get left out of all this insane coverage?

Posted by: IrenePollin | January 6, 2010 6:18 PM | Report abuse

Berg5 you miss the point. Mr. Arenas did not break the rules, he broke the law, this was a criminal act on his part. Guns are not toys nor status symbols as so many young men seem to think. I hope that he is prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Using his children as an excuse was really, really cheap.

Posted by: Listening2 | January 6, 2010 6:42 PM | Report abuse

with all due respect. Mr Pollin is no longer here. from the information that I got he broke a rule so far not a law. guns legally own in Virgina and D C have to decide if they respect there law so no laws broke as of yet. for not it self righteous people who want something to judge someone who earn a lot of money to make them feel go about there life. is the young man a little dumb? yeah but there in every thing I hread and read was there ever any intent to harm. it is written that people should mind there business but in a world of bad time for a lot of people I guess they have to say something bad about someone to feel good about them self

Posted by: lostdogrwd1011 | January 6, 2010 7:10 PM | Report abuse

Political correctness run amok.

Posted by: yukonjack1 | January 6, 2010 7:50 PM | Report abuse

Listening2 / Berg5:
Actually Mr. Arenas broke the rules: The agreement between the Players Association and the NBA is that no guns are allowed to be brought to the arena, to a practice/training facility, or when promoting NBA activities (that is, doing NBA public relations activities). That, in itself, the rules.

It's a separate issue whether Mr. Arenas was required to have a license for the guns, if he broke laws regarding transporting the guns across a state line, or if he broke laws by "threatening" (even jokingly) another person with a gun. Those are separate issues.

But, yes, Mr. Arenas clearly, by his own admission, broke the rules of the NBA.

Posted by: Dungarees | January 6, 2010 7:55 PM | Report abuse

The Washington Bullets were originally the Baltimore Bullets, where the saying, "Faster than a speeding bullet" originated. Actually, the term originated with Superman, but you get the idea. The alliterative sound of the "B" worked well too, just as the "W" in Washington Wizards does today.

The team in the mid-1970s even had a fast-break play that expoited a long-court high velocity pass. Wes Unseld played center and would come down with the rebound and fire it down court to a fast-breaking guard. That was a long time ago, and in those days we even had roller derby (men's and women's) at the DC Armory.

Later the name Bullets became inappropriate for Washington because Washington, DC was the murder capital of the United States. People around the country were making jokes about our team's name. But all that killing was due to crack cocaine, not due to people joking around.

It would help for everyone to take a deep breath and remember that an aide to U. S. Senator Jim Webb was not charged when he carried a gun and ammo to the office.

Posted by: blasmaic | January 6, 2010 9:11 PM | Report abuse

This column disgusts me. Don't use this as your forum to state your misguided hatred of guns upon the readers. Guns are illegal in DC and NY. Where are the highest murder rates in the US? They're perfectly legal in Wyoming and Texas. Where are the lowest murder rates? Hmmm.

Posted by: Kirk1962 | January 6, 2010 10:44 PM | Report abuse

Great article. I think saying that Abe Pollin would be livid about Arenas' actions is a gross understatement, though. As loyal as Mr. Pollin was, Abe would have had Arenas out on the street by now.

Posted by: NWDC3 | January 6, 2010 10:45 PM | Report abuse

I will take a back seat to no one in my opposition to gun violence and my efforts to get illegal guns off District streets. My family having been a victim a death threat I know the hurt caused by gun violence.

Mr. Arenas' conduct was stupid, if not illegal. However, Ms. Armao's indignation sounds too self-righteous and self-serving. She and the editorial board of The Washington Post have a double standard view of misconduct and what is considered violence.

Robert Vinson Brannum

Posted by: robert158 | January 7, 2010 7:00 AM | Report abuse

Rules and laws were broken. It's that simple. But it wasn't breaking curfew, skipping practice or not wearing a tie on the team plane. It was PLAYING WITH GUNS. AT WORK no less. REAL guns made for one purpose. Killing. Playing with guns is stupid and senseless. Breaking the law by transporting guns into the District, taking them to work ON PURPOSE to make a joke (?!?!?!) and then MAKING FUN of the situation...flaunting State, Federal, Team and League authorities is beyond stupid.
The issue is that Gilbert (and others it would appear) cannot seem to distinguish what the real problem is. He broke laws and rules but does not seem to understand the true levity of what he did. Like it or not, as a highly visible All-Star player in the NBA he is held to a higher standard and should have better sense than that. And he should certainly have had better sense in how to act AFTER the story came out. That is more disappointing. Consider the team and it's history (Bullets name changed to Wizards) and the city. If he doesn't want to be an example for others he should go work a 9 to 5 job. I guarantee his "joke" wouldn't have flown in an office environment either.

A last thought. Whether anyone agrees with Mr. Pollin changing the team name or not he did it for profound reasons close to his heart. He loved DC and, for all the things he did for the city, he felt a sense of calling to make life better for it citizens through his team. I suspect this current episode would be very troubling for him.

Posted by: hellonwheels | January 7, 2010 8:47 AM | Report abuse

The bottom line is -- Guns protecting our nation, guns protecting us from criminals, etc, etc is serving it purpose. What's the purpose of a gun in an NBA locker room? According to Arenas is to protect his kids. Well, does he have kitchen knives, cleaning chemicals, scissors, as well on his lock box? It's stupid. With the Abe Pollin opinion on guns, Mr. Pollin did not push his views on everyone, only to the franchise he owns which he financed himself. Arenas deserves what he gets and the only consolation is Mr. Pollin is spared from seeing his beloved franchise mocked by Arenas and tarnished.

Posted by: Nxau | January 7, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

How dare you feign such anger and outrage, and continue to fan the flames of hysteria, with the obvious goal of destroying the career of a man who until this point had done nothing but give back to the community?

In a world full of so much evil, injustice, anger, and hate, is this really the best target for your self-righteousness?

Maybe it makes you feel better to pile on this poor, dumb guy. It's certainly generating hits and clicks. But it just makes me sad. He's being blamed for nearly every evil in society by media figures who would rather spend their time making mountains out of molehills instead of going after the real bad guys.

The whole thing makes me sick.

Posted by: bryc3 | January 7, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Somewhere former NBA Deputy Commissioner, Simon Gourdine, is shaking his head. It wasn’t too long ago that the NBA was thought to be “too black” and “drug infested” to ever reach mass appeal. Today’s players have reneged on their obligation to be ambassadors of a league built on the backs of Dr. Jr, Bird, Magic and Jordan. For the best write-up of the Gilbert Arenas situation go here:

Posted by: Silk32 | January 7, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Oegardless of your opinion on guns, the fact is Abe Pollin, the long time owner of the Wizards, was against guns. So Arenas bringing his unlicensed guns into the house Abe built is an insult to the man's memory. Add to that the fact that Gilbert seemed unable to take his circumstances seriously...going so far as to make light of it during the pre-game introductions and on twitter. That's just tells you the dude had no clue what serious legal and professional hot water he had brought on his own head. Now he's been suspended and losing $1 million every 10 games...I wouldn't be surprised if the Wizards don't void his contract. After all, it's not like he's been lighting the NBA on fire this season.

Posted by: tundey | January 7, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Just Gil being Gil, right? Polin would have traded or cut him. See Chris Webber and Michael Jordan. When you pay a boy (maturity wise) $110 million to play a game, what do you expect?

Posted by: KDSmallJr | January 7, 2010 11:46 AM | Report abuse

It is sad to see a knucklehead (Arenas) destroy his career because he cannot grow up.

Posted by: ohng | January 7, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

I probably have as much personal experience with Abe Pollin and Gilbert Arenas as Jo-Ann Armao: none. If I were to hypothesize about what Pollin would do, I guess I'd have to read Washington Post coverage of their relationship.

He probably would have talked to him as the father figure that he was. He probably would have taken into account all the charity work that Arenas has done. He probably would have understood that Arenas is young and immature, but may just have a good heart that doesn't need to be pilloried for a stupid stunt.

But hey, I realize it's not as righteous and headline-grabbing as Armao's angle.

Posted by: gclyde | January 7, 2010 4:35 PM | Report abuse

This ridiculous mess with Arenas has me thinking what I always think about professional sports, especially basketball, "well, what did you expect from another thug"? I always tell young people, "these ignorant and uneducated people are not role models and certainly not hero's". Do not buy their jerseys, hats or numbers. Emulate their athleticism, fine, but nothing else if you want to be respected and successful in life. Most can barely speak English. Most cannot even handle their money and spend lavishly on themselves while they see people that are hurting and even starving. I have zero sympathy for people who allow themselves to be bought and sold like cattle and slaves, just for big money to throw around on waste. Charitable work? You're kidding me! Peanuts!

Posted by: Jackie18 | January 9, 2010 2:14 PM | Report abuse

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