In the last three weeks, Gilbert Arenas has gone from the best player on one of the worst teams in the NBA to its biggest distraction and pariah. Everyone knows the story by now, and while it is not the brightest move Arenas has ever made, no one should be surprised.
The NBA built Arenas up, gave him free reign to run his blog, and be another face for the league. And now he's taking the fall for it.
I would like to preface this by saying that I am not condoning Arenas' actions in any way. He should have known better than to store guns in his locker, produce them in the name of a joke and break league rules and laws. But he is being painted in a bad light by the media and a great number of fans.
When this story came out, I didn't know what to think. On the one hand, I wondered what it meant for him. Would he be facing jail time? Would he be banned from the league? On the other hand, I wondered if this could be the blessing in disguise for the Wizards. Could this be their way out of paying the remaining $80 million on his contract?
The latter thought process existed before the season started, but like many fans was only fueled by this latest development.
The term "moral turpitude" has been thrown around a lot during this ordeal and to be honest, I have never heard the word " turpitude." As a student at the University of Maryland I could interpret it as the attitude possessed by a Terp, but that wouldn't explain how the Wizards could utilize it to remove the financial burden Arenas embodies.
To clarify, moral turpitude is a fancy way of saying that a team has the right to void a player's contract if he is charged with a felony.
Arenas was recently charged with a felony*.
The felony comes with an asterisk because this charge will certainly lead to a plea on Arenas' part in hopes of getting the charge lowered to a misdemeanor. Good news for Arenas, bad news for hopeful fans.
No felony, no voided contract.
No matter the circumstances, there is little chance the Wizards could get away with voiding Arenas' contract because the Players Association would make a gigantic deal out of it all. And for good reason.
Arenas didn't point a gun at anyone. He didn't threaten anyone with any of his numerous firearms. He didn't so much as pistol-whip anyone.
There are no grounds for the Wizards to void the contract.
I can hear the collective groans of every Wizards fan in the world. This is the moment they've been waiting for, a chance to unload a poor investment and spark the fire sale of the remaining roster. The fans want a rebuild in the worst way possible and Arenas is the most important piece to that puzzle.
I won't say I haven't been hopeful for some big changes in Washington, but I don't know if this is the "miracle" I had hoped for.
While this is not Arenas' first gun related incident, it is not the worst thing to happen. He was charged with carrying a firearm without proper registration when he was with Golden State. Since then he hasn't so much as stepped a toe out of line.
And now he might as well have blown up the Lincoln Memorial with the reaction he's received for this latest antic.
When Ron Artest went bounding into the stands in what is now so charmingly known as the Malice at the Palace, no one knew what was going to happen in the aftermath. Would Artest have a future in the league? Would he face serious charges for assaulting a fan?
A 73-game suspension, a fine, and community service is all he got.
Keep in mind, Artest attacked three fans, landing at least one significant punch and spurred one of the worst events in NBA history.
Arenas stands by the story that he had the weapons in his locker because he wasn't comfortable having them in his house with the birth of his third child. A reasonable explanation, though one wonders why only the third child made him worry about the weapons and not the first two.
The big deal is that it involved guns, four of them. And there is no explanation good enough to excuse it.
Professional sports in general represent a substantial double standard in society. If some normal guy jumped over the counter at a McDonald's and beat the crap out of the cashier, he'd face consequences. Assault is typically considered a misdemeanor, unless it is aggravated assault.
Nevertheless, that normal guy would be in trouble with the law. He could face some sort of jail time as punishment. Normal people don't get suspensions and fines, but athletes do.
Under the circumstances, it would stand to reason that Arenas won't get much more than a slap on the wrist.
If the world made sense, Arenas would be charged with a felony and punished based on the severity of the offense. He wouldn't have the opportunity to plea for a more lenient sentence. Normal people can't afford the lawyer Arenas has, and may not get the same "fair" shake at getting off the hook.
The NBA has had a history of players with legal troubles.
Jason Kidd plead guilty to domestic abuse in 2001. Latrell Sprewell choked coach P.K. Carlesimo in 1997. Gary Payton and Sam Cassell were charged with simple assault in 2003.
As it stands, Arenas has the chance to get out of this with a suspension, a fine, maybe some community service, and probation. The wide world of sports puts athletes on a pedestal, and as a result has to protect its investments.
The NBA let Arenas get away with his brand of tomfoolery in an attempt to boost the positive image of the league. The NBA took it on the chin when Kobe was brought up on rape charges, but has since recovered when the claims made against him were proven false.
Arenas took the mile the NBA gave him and could have possibly turned it into a six by eight cell.
I don't think Arenas should be banned from the NBA because of a bad decision. I don't think he should face the harshest possible punishment the law or the NBA can bring down on him. Just because I don't think he is the best thing for the Wizards doesn't mean I wish his career, his livelihood, to be over.
Not that I apologize for his actions or for any of the prior occasions I have bashed him in this medium.
Do I think Arenas was in the wrong? Yes. Do I think the NBA has the right to punish him for his actions? Yes. Do I think he should be made an example out of? No.
The NBA created Arenas, but didn't give him any restrictions. The NBA is as responsible for this situation as Arenas is. Anything the league does about the situation is akin to disavowing their own Agent Zero.