It sounds like the beginning of a bad Family Guy breakaway…
“That sounds as stupid as that one time those basketball players pulled unloaded guns on each other…”
Then the show cuts away from the central storyline (or general lack thereof most of the time) and everyone watches as animated depictions of Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton in the Washington Wizards locker room pull unloaded firearms on each other over an expensive card gambling dispute.
It sounds so ridiculous and absurd that you may actually have the inkling to laugh – until you remember that this isn’t crappy Sunday night cartoon comedy. This actually happened.
It should not matter to anyone that the guns did not even have bullets in them – and no one should be laughing at the idiotic irony of that fact, despite the understandable temptation. It should not matter that Arenas is a self-proclaimed prankster, and the stunt somehow started out – beyond all lengths of my imagination – as a joke. It should not matter that no one was physically injured, because what does matter is that this incident has inflicted harm extending far beyond an immediate bullet wound.
The NBA is often lauded for its global community outreach initiatives, most notably NBA Cares, whose mission is to address “important social issues such as education, youth and family development, and health and wellness.” To accomplish this goal, star players actively raise money, visit schools to encourage literacy and education, and lend a helping hand to build new learning and athletic facilities in impoverished communities. Last year, Arenas himself donated $25,000 to Wizards Care.
While Washington’s troubled star can be applauded for this effort, the fact that he has the financial capacity and platform to earn such positive praise troubles me – especially in light of his antics last week. Community outreach and volunteerism are highly valued in American society; we are often guilty of overlooking obvious shortcomings and wrongdoings if the person performs public service – especially if that person is a celebrity.
In other words, the NBA has successfully created a thin, powerful, and dangerous veneer of lies for players like Arenas to hide behind when the reality that they are not truly role models rears its ugly head. Complement community service with stellar athletic prowess on the court and multi-million-dollar endorsements off it, and irresponsible – let alone criminal – actions can even more easily be justified or ignored by those tens of thousands who emulate Arenas.
Young basketball fans in the Washington DC area have grown up idolizing Arenas; when you have stars and dollar signs in your eyes, you can ignore simple facts like a bad attitude, underachievement, and why pulling a gun on your own teammate in your own locker room is bad.
The harsh, sad reality is that, when many children hear this story, they will only understand that Arenas and Crittenton had guns in the locker room, they will hear the new Jersey Nets’ Devin Harris’ claims that 75% of NBA players own guns, and they will hear media pundits poke fun of the fact that the guns were not loaded. If these children lack parents who are active, aware, and responsible, many will either assume this is normal and “cool” behavior – no matter how long Areans’ suspension is – or they will simply treat the matter too lightly.
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