Monday, February 8, 2010

Athletes and Guns - Had to Defend Myself

By Tom Grant
PhD student at University of Idaho Center for ETHICS*


What is wrong with carrying a gun into a locker room?


Following a felony gun conviction and league suspension for his locker room confrontation with a teammate, Washington Wizards basketball player Gilbert Arenas publicly promised to send “a message of non-violence” to young people.

“Guns and violence are serious problems, not joking matters -- a lesson that's been brought home to me over the past few weeks. I thought about this when I pleaded guilty as charged in court and when I accepted my NBA suspension without challenge,” Arenas wrote in a column in the Washington Post.

In the Wizards locker room on Christmas Eve, Arenas and teammate Javaris Crittenton pulled guns on each in a dispute over a $25,000 gambling debt. Crittenden told the court he brought the gun to defend himself because Arenas had threatened to shoot him and burn his car.

He pulled his gun after Arenas laid out three guns in front of Crittenton’s locker with a note that said, “Pick one.” In early statements, Arenas characterized the incident as a joke and that he never intended to hurt anyone.

Both players pleaded guilty to violating the city’s strict law against weapons possession as well as to breaking the NBA’s rule against carrying weapons while at a basketball arena. They were suspended for the remainder of the season.

Arenas promised in an op-ed piece in the Washington Post to be a better role model. Crittenton was sentenced by the court to mentor young people.

Some say the Arenas case is symptomatic of a broader concern, and that many athletes in the NFL and NBA carry guns. Other gun incidents include Chris Mills brandishing a gun during an argument with a teammate on the Trailblazers’ team bus in 2002 and Sebastian Telfair recently caught packing a loaded handgun on his luggage on the Trailblazers’ plane. Many say that “everyone does it.” Others say they need it for protection because as celebrities and athletes they become targets for criminals.

What do you think?

Were Arenas and Crittenton justified in bringing guns into the locker room because “everyone does it”?

Some athletes legitimately fear that they are targets for crime. They may come from backgrounds where guns were part of everyday life. They see their peers in the league carrying weapons. They may fear they’ll be in danger, as Crittenton did, if they don’t carry guns.

However, the NBA promotes itself as family friendly entertainment. Arenas says guns and violence are not joking matters, and that he won’t carry guns because has a duty to be a role model for young fans. Does that affect your decision about whether professional basketball players should bring weapons into the locker room?

Here’s what Dr. Stoll has to say about the Arenas case:

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