NBA commissioner David Stern has indefinitely suspended Gilbert Arenas, saying the Washington Wizards guard is “not currently fit to take the court” for a game.
Stern says in a statement Wednesday that Arenas’ actions will “ultimately result in a substantial suspension, and perhaps worse.”
Because Arenas violated NBA rules by bringing guns into Washington’s locker room, Stern decided to punish Arenas now. He said the suspension begins immediately.
“We fully endorse the decision of the NBA to indefinitely suspend Gilbert Arenas,” the Wizards responded in a statement on Wednesday. “Strictly legal issues aside, Gilbert’s recent behavior and statements, including his actions and statements last night in Philadelphia, are unacceptable. Some of our other players appeared to find Gilbert’s behavior in Philadelphia amusing. This is also unacceptable. Under Abe Pollin’s leadership, our organization never tolerated such behavior, and we have no intention of ever doing so.”
Stern says he originally planned to wait for the criminal investigation to be completed before taking action, and directed the Wizards to do the same.
Every game Arenas, who celebrated his 28th birthday on Wednesday, ends up missing during the suspension will cost him $147,208.
The suspension comes after multiple media reports over the weekend said that a dispute over a gambling debt led to a conflict between Arenas and teammate Javaris Crittenton.
Multiple sources told ESPN.com that an argument commenced during a card game on the team’s overnight flight back to Washington from Phoenix on Dec. 19 and escalated into a heated exchange between Arenas and Crittenton. The Wizards had Dec. 20 off, but sources say hostilities between the two resumed Dec. 21 in the locker room on a practice day.
Sources say that Arenas, in response to what was said on the flight, placed the three guns on a chair near Crittenton’s locker stall and invited him to pick one before practice on Dec. 21. Sources said that Crittenton subsequently let Arenas know that he had his own gun.
The Washington Post reported in Sunday’s editions that Arenas, according to sources, was expecting Crittenton to see the guns on his chair as a joke based on the earlier back-and-forth on the plane, during which Crittenton allegedly said that he would shoot Arenas in his surgically repaired knee. But Crittenton, according to Post, reacted angrily and tossed one of the guns to the floor, saying he had his own.
In his statement, Arenas confirmed that the guns were brought out at the Dec. 21 practice.
“As I have said before, I had kept the four unloaded handguns in my house in Virginia but then moved them over to my locker at the Verizon Center to keep them away from my young kids,” the statement read. “I brought them without any ammunition into the District of Columbia, mistakenly believing that the recent change in the D.C. gun laws allowed a person to store unloaded guns in the District. On Monday, December 21st, I took the unloaded guns out in a misguided effort to play a joke on a teammate.
“Contrary to some press accounts, I never threatened or assaulted anyone with the guns and never pointed them at anyone. Joke or not, I now recognize that what I did was a mistake and was wrong. I should not have brought the guns to D.C. in the first place, and I now realize that there’s no such thing as joking around when it comes to guns — even if unloaded.”
Arenas met with law enforcement officials on Monday to explain why he had guns at the Verizon Center last month.
Arenas’ lawyer issued a statement saying that the player met with federal prosecutors at the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and detectives of the Metropolitan Police Department for more than two hours.
At the NBA’s request, the firearms language was bolstered during collective bargaining in 2005. Players are subject to discipline if they bring guns to the arena or practice facility, or even an offsite promotional appearance.