On Guns, Race and the NBA

Gilbert Arenas: Gun Slinger!


 Should The NBA  Ban Gun Ownership Among The Players?

 Although I am rarely impressed by anything the sports reporter turned pundit Steven A has to say that does not involve playing the game, I found his comments on WNBC’s Ed Show last Thursday regarding the present imbroglio over whether NBA players should be allowed to own guns especially silly.  His remarks on this occasion were prompted by allegations of gun play in the Washington Wizard’s locker room involving mega-star Gilbert Arenas and team mate Javaris Crittenton.  According to press reports the beef between the two players started on the plane traveling back to Washington D.C. from a road game. They were gambling and Arenas lost but refused to pay up.  At which point Crittenton is alleged to have threatened to shoot Arenas in his surgically reconstructed knee – a comment Crittenton insists was a joke. 

However from the events that followed it does not appear that Arenas found the quip funny.  At the next home game we are told that Arenas showed up in the locker room with several of his own guns and issued a challenge to Crittenton.  Arenas insists that it was a prank and that his guns were unloaded, but some reports say that Crittenton took the matter seriously, pulled his own gun and shoved an ammo clip into it!  If the facts in these allegations prove true, then both players should be tossed out of the league for life. 

If these ballers are so simple minded and irresponsible as not to recognize that they are highly privileged and extremely fortunate individuals, whom the game of basketball has afforded a lifestyle that most people in the world would be willing to give up some years of their life to enjoy, they do not deserve it and both should be forced to live like the rest of us who must struggle to make ends meet during this prolonged economic recession.  It is high time that these pampered athletes – grown men who live like kings from playing a boy’s game – understand that there are certain responsibilities that come with this great privilege.

For one thing, whether they wish to be or not, they are role models to the nation’s children who love sports and idolize them.  When confronted with this simple but undeniable truth, many of these tarnished idols who have been subjected to public opprobrium because of anti-social behavior flippantly remark that they do not wish to be role models; they argue that “parents should raise their children.” 

But given all of the hoopla that surrounds them by virtue of their exploits in the game, their influence on kids often supersedes that of their parents.  Hence we have a right to expect a certain standard of behavior from professional athletes, and those who find it too difficult to meet those standards should be forced to do something else;  like go get a real job if they can find one.  I doubt that many of them will choose this route, but whatever they choose it is their call.

Having said that however, the question of whether NBA Commissioner David Stern should have the right to ban ownership of guns by all NBA players is another matter entirely.  In the first place I am as certain as a non-lawyer can be that this would be illegal and thus would never survive a legal challenge by the players bcause it is prima facia discrimination.  If the laws of a state allows for the ownership of firearms then so long as they meet those requirements they have the right to bear arms like the rest of the citizenry. 

Furthermore given the high visibility of NBA players, the fact that their high salaries are publicized in the media, and the reality that many of them have family ties and good friends who reside in dangerous urban neighborhoods, they are prime targets for all manner of criminals and deviants.  And there is no paucity of examples of their victimization.  The fact is that Professional athletes, especially black athletes, are excellent candidates for legal gun ownership including licenses to carry concealed weapons.

Therefore a ban on gun ownership by the NBA Commissioner would raise another thorny issue that David Stern would be a fool  to conjure up: Racism!   And this writer will be leading the charge to raise this issue!  How could anyone justify such a demand for NBA players while hockey and  tennis players are allowed to bear fire arms, and what about NASCAR drivers?  Everybody knows they are gun freaks.   The fact is we live in a gun crazy culture, a culture where whackos are allowed to show up at presidential rallies brandishing guns while holding aloft signs denouncing President Obama as an enemy of the American people, a secret ally of Arab terrorists.  And everybody in America knows that had black radicals showed up at President Bush’s public appearances brandishing fire arms while denouncing him in similar terms they would have be arrested if not fired upon. 

If people want to get exercised about guns the fanatical white racists is where they should focus their attention first. As the Department of Homeland  Security warned us theses people pose a real threat of committing acts of terrorism on American soil.  Hence those who want to ban guns should concern themselves with organized white nationalist militias that produce people like Timothy McVey, the Oklahoma City bomber, and the websites that inspire lone assassins like Richard Popolowski, who slaughtered three innocent policemen in Pittsburg.  Absent such demands on all these far more dangerous parties, banning gun ownership among NBA players is racist in fact not just appearance!  


The problem with players like Arenas and Crittenton is the result of both personal and cultural problems. The former athlete, long time sports sociologist, and expert on black athletes Dr. Harry Edwards – who is himself African American – explained the phenomenon in a recent interview. Edwards convincingly argues that the root cause of the Arenas / Crittenton affair resides in the gangster culture that is so influential among black inner-city youths. This ethos is  constantly projected in the imagery and lyrics of Gangsta Rap records and shootemup movies, and it has become so powerful that it even affects the behavior of some young black men who come from middle class backgrounds that are trying to project themselves as “hard.”  Gilbert Arenas is a case in point.  He does not hail from “the hood;” he is playing a role.   Perhaps that’s why he does not know that you don’t pull guns unless you are ready to use them.  A similar prank in the hood – in the back room of a club for instance – could have gotten him killed. 

Hence it is the seduction of gangster culture and the anti-social behavior flowing from it that the NBA should seek to address, not institute a blanket ban on gun ownership among all players in the league. Over a century ago the pioneering Afro-American sociologist Dr. W.E.B. DuBois observed that if whites really wanted to piss black folks off, just act as if all black people are the same!   African American athletes are a varied lot, and thus almost any generalization beyond the fact that they are black and play sports for a living runs the serious risk of being baseless.  And to assume that they are all criminally prone hot heads who must be denied the same rights as other citizens is unacceptable. 

The Commissioner, therefore, should confine his concerns to the behavior of NBA players on the job.  It is fully within his purview to ban guns in the basketball arenas and during team travels, or on any occasion where league business is involved.  And I am shocked that he has not already done so. Beyond that it’s none of David Stern’s business who owns fire arms; no matter what Steven A and other members of the chattering classes may think!


 Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

Janurary 8, 2010

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