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Non-(MSG)Garden Variety: Gilbert Arenas Thankfully Doesn’t Go To Jail


Gilbert Arenas, convicted on gun charges, was sentenced today to 30 days in a halfway house, 400 hours of community service (which cannot be conducted at basketball clinics), and a $5,000 fine.  There’s been a ton of outrage over this whole incident, and honestly, I’ve just been outraged at the outrage.

For those who don’t know the story, here’s what happened:  Gilbert got into some argument (I believe over $ from playing poker) with teammate Javaris Crittenton on a team flight.  Crittenton, furious, apparently said something about shooting Arenas in his bad knee.  Two days later, Arenas left four unloaded guns in front of Crittenton’s locker with a note saying, “Pick One.”  For those of you, like my Mom, who may’ve never heard about Arenas, that might sound pretty frickin’ scary.  For those who follow the NBA though, Arenas is known as THE prominent jokester in the league, and this was clearly a poor, poor, poor, poor attempt at humor.  But it was a joke.  And there were no ammo in the guns, so there wasn’t even a chance that this could be a joke that turned horribly wrong and deadly.

Now I ain’t a huge fan of people having guns, but I hear it’s in the Constitution.  Honestly, I’d be down with getting rid of that whole “right to bear arms” junk if was up to me.  But we do have it.  And Arenas has a license for his guns.  The only thing is that Washington DC has a no tolerance policy on guns, so this is the one city in which you can’t be carrying.  So the truth is, this isn’t about threatening teammates or poor jokes or whatever, it’s just about the simple fact of HAVING a gun in the District of Columbia.  If say a hunter from Maine was driving through town, not thinking that they still had their riffle packed in their trunk, they would’ve been guilty of the exact same thing.

Look, a huge number of NBA players, probably the majority of ’em, have a gun.  That doesn’t mean they’re thugs who run around with gats to show they’re hard.  But these are rich, rich men with expensive houses, jewelry, etc., so you can bet they’ve got some protection hidden at home just in case.  There is nothing wrong with this — unless you live in DC.  However, we have become such an over-protective hypocritical society that uses “family values” as a deadly bludgeon to get rid of those we don’t like.  We’re scared of big black men with guns.  So we try to force Arenas into that stereotype and turn him into everything wrong with society.

He’s not a thug.  He made a joke.  A bad joke.  But unfortunately for him, he is big, he is black, and he had several guns.  DC prosecuted him for the guns.  America and the media prosecuted him for his Big Blacknosity.

And the thing that most seemed to bother “us” was that he didn’t initially seem sorry.  He had the nerve to make jokes about the joke!  And guns are no joke!  But the only thing he legally did wrong was bring guns to the one wrong city in the country.  Yeah, yeah, the NBA has a policy that players can’t bring guns to any of their arenas or official team facilities, but that’s not the point.  The point is that Gilbert Arenas was convicted in the Court Of Public Opinion because he didn’t treat the topic of guns seriously.

Let’s say this had all happened at Arenas’ home.  Say maybe the team had come over to Casa de Arenas for a team gathering, and he did the exact same thing with the guns & the “Pick One” note.  We all would’ve been just as outraged, but he wouldn’t have done anything illegal ‘cuz he his house isn’t in DC proper.  He would’ve gotten off scott free.  Which I think is fine.  People want his head not because he broke the law but because he made a joke about something people don’t think one should make jokes about.  It’d be like if he tried to make some humorous comment about how he had such a long day that he needed to go home and smoke a joint.  Everyone would be outraged because he’s supposed to set an example and be a role model, but we wouldn’t be calling for him to get jail time.

So I’m happy that Arenas didn’t receive any jail time.  And new outcries are appearing that he only avoided jail because he’s rich and famous and could hire the best lawyers money could buy.  People scream he’d be in jail if he was just a normal Joe!  But the other side is that because he’s not a normal Joe, he’s already been punished much more than anyone else could have been.  He was suspended from the NBA for the rest of this season, causing him to lose $7 million in salary!  Heck, factor in lost endorsements and it’s even more.  Again, if the “incident” had happened at Gilbert’s home, there’s no way the NBA could’ve suspended him more than a game or two.  Or if it had happened at another arena, it would’ve just been against NBA policy, not against the law.  Instead, society lucked out: we were able to give Arenas a $7+ million punishment for not being the role model we’d like him to be.

I have no idea what staying at a halfway house is like (I imagine not very bad compared to jail).  The $5,000 fine is chump change to him.  And following the arc of Arenas’ charitable donations of both time and money, doing 400 hours of community work should be business as usual.  So I think it’s time we give the dude a break, let him move on, and give him a second chance.  If we want role models for our children, shouldn’t we ourselves be able to model that most noble of qualities: forgiveness?