Thanks, David Stern for Doing the Right Thing

Thanks, David Stern. Thanks for doing what any sane-thinking person would have done, suspending the two Washington Wizards players who were so stupid, so arrogant to bring guns to practice.

Thanks for attempting to restore to society some sense of what is right and wrong.

The NRA people may be disgusted. They want their weapons. It's part of America, the right to bear arms. Except weapons injure and kill. Even basketball players. Even basketball players earning millions.

Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton are gone, in a manner of speaking. Not gone as if one of them had been fatally shot, which always was the possibility.

Guns don't kill people, the NRA has trumpeted on and on, people kill people. With guns, guns that are hauled into night clubs or, in this case, locker rooms.

Arenas should have been too wise for this, too sharp. He wears "0'' on his uniform, but nobody ever thought of him as a zero. He grew up in the San Fernando Valley, next to Los Angeles, suburbia, not the ‘hood.

He has a delightful personality, but he also has a flaw. He thinks he needs a gun for protection. As if someone unskilled in firearm use has a chance against an assailant.

It's a cultural thing. That's what we're told. More accurately, it's a dangerous thing. Ask Plaxico Burress. He's got a hole in his thigh from his own gun. He's also got a stay in prison.

Did Arenas and Crittenton learn a thing from Plaxico Burress accidentally shooting himself and then being found guilty of carrying an illegal weapon, resulting in jail time? Not at all.

Will the rest of the NBA, will athletes from other sports, learn anything from the suspensions of Arenas and Crittenton? Probably not.

And if they do come to the realization that a career and lifestyle could be damaged, as theirs seemingly has been, will they act with due diligence?

Even now, most of the players - most, not all - are thinking, "That's too bad what happened to Gilbert and Javaris. They're good guys. They didn't hurt anyone. But I'm sharper than they are. I can handle guns without a problem."

The irony, the sad joke, is the Washington Bullets, nee the Baltimore and Capital Bullets, had their nickname changed because of image.

The Washington Bullets with Elvin Hayes and Wes Unseld might have won the NBA championship in 1977-78, but it was time to make a break from the past.

In 1995, owner Abe Pollin announced he was changing the team's name because of the high homicide rate in the Washington, D.C. area. Why glorify violence? Thus in 1997, the Bullets became the Wizards.

Maybe Arenas and Crittenton weren't aware of the history. They should have been. Someone on the Wizards should have preached the gospel, that the team had severed any association with guns or ammunition. This was a new beginning.

Except for Arenas and Crittenton it's become an old story.

Arenas' first NBA team was the Golden State Warriors, who couldn't hold him as a free agent. Apropos of nothing, the Warriors just traded Stephen Jackson, who when he was in Indiana received a seven-day suspension on gun-related charges.

Stern, the long-time commissioner, helped build the NBA into the league it is now, packed with great stars and offering wall-to-wall TV spectaculars. ESPN's SportsCenter never has fewer than two or three NBA highlights among its nightly top ten.

He understands what can happen if someone, even accidentally, should discharge a firearm. All the good will evaporate in a puff of gunpowder.

"They'd been warned about that at the beginning of the year,'' Stern said on an interview on NBA TV, reminding guns in locker rooms or stadiums is in violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Not to mention in violation of the law in most cities.

"I decided that it just can't be tolerated, and each of them was suspended for the rest of the year . . . I would have done more if I didn't believe their contrition and sincerity.''

Then in a comment as strong as his actions, Stern insisted, "We mean what we say.''

The victims are as much the other Washington Wizards as they are Arenas, primarly, and Crittenton. The team is floundering without Arenas. But victims here is in a figurative sense. At least there weren't the other kind, the type shot by a bullet from an illegal gun.

Again and again we're told, justifably, NBA players are the best athletes of those in any sport, big, strong, agile, graceful, inexhaustible. They are a joy to watch. And a mystery to understand.

Get rid of the guns, guys. The only shots you should be taking are with a basketball.

As a reporter since 1960, Art Spander is a living treasure of sports history. A recipient of the Dick McCann Memorial Award -- given for his long and distinguished career covering professional football -- he has earned himself a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was recently honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the PGA of America for 2009.

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