Anyone who has sat at a poker table knows that it can be a high tension experience, particularly when there are thousands of dollars on the line. It’s very easy for disagreements and confrontations to develop, even more so when the loser refuses to pay. Basketball star Gilbert Arenas knows all to well what lasting effects this kind of feud can have. He has been suspended from the sport indefinitely by the NBA for brandishing a weapon at teammate Javaris Crittendon.
The Washington Wizards duo had been engaging in some high stakes heads up action on a team flight in early December. Arenas reportedly finished down around $25,000, but refused to pay his debt. In what appears to have been conceived as a prank, Arenas then placed four guns in the locker of his opponent, with a note that read ‘Pick One’. When he found the weapons, Crittendon confronted Arenas with his own pistol. Thankfully, no shots were fired and there were no injuries.
A federal inquiry was immediately arranged and is still ongoing. Arenas has defended himself in statements and on Twitter, stating that he and Crittendon were both aware that the guns were part of a joke. He has admitted to keeping firearms in the Wizards’ locker-room, on the pretense that he was attempting to keep them away from his three young children. Following questioning by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia he issued an apologetic statement. “Joke or not, I now recognize that what I did was a mistake and was wrong.”
However, in dealing publicly with the issue, he has not been all sweetness and light. In the days after the story was first reported, Arenas was seen joking about events on his Twitter account. It was his flippant attitude towards such a serious breach of standards that hastened the action of NBA commissioner David Stern. “His ongoing conduct has led me to conclude that he is not currently fit to take the court in an NBA game,” said Stern. The tipping point appears to have occurred before the Wizard’s match on Tuesday in Philadelphia. Before the game, Arenas was photographed making mock pistol shapes with his hands and jokingly waving them at his teammates.
ESPN cites sources close to Stern, who admit that the commissioner was provoked to act prior to the conclusion of the federal investigation by the player’s nonchalant reaction to events. In the run up to the decision, Arenas had called Stern “mean,” but following the ruling he issued another apology. “I put the NBA in a negative light and let down my teammates and our fans. I am very sorry for doing that.”
The witch hunt may not be over, with the Washington post claiming that Crittendon drew his own weapon, which he loaded and cocked, in response to Arenas. The player strongly denies this and has asked that people “let the investigation process take its course,” before passing judgment. Several news organizations are also claiming that those players seen joking with Arenas in Philadelphia could face hefty fines. There are also some testing questions to be aimed at the Wizards, who failed to report the incident, despite the fact that it breached NBA regulations on firearms.
Gilbert Arenas is now suspended indefinitely without pay, pending a final decision which could “ultimately result in a substantial suspension, and perhaps worse.” With his team backing the decision, many are wondering whether his 6-year $111 million contract may be in jeopardy. As far as poker is concerned, it does nothing to help the image of a game that has moved so far away from the days of gambling debts settled by violence.