NEW YORK | Gilbert Arenas was suspended without pay Wednesday by NBA Commissioner David Stern, who determined the player’s behavior made him “not currently fit to take the court.”
A day after the Washington Wizards guard was photographed before a game in Philadelphia pointing his index fingers, as if they were guns, at his teammates, Mr. Stern warned the former all-star that his conduct will “ultimately result in a substantial suspension, and perhaps worse.”
Mr. Arenas is under investigation by federal and local authorities after admittedly bringing guns to the locker room. Mr. Stern originally planned to wait to take action, but he tired of Mr. Arenas’ behavior.
Mr. Arenas met with law enforcement officials Monday and said the next day that he feared Mr. Stern more than the authorities because the commissioner was “mean.”
“Although it is clear that the actions of Mr. Arenas will ultimately result in a substantial suspension, and perhaps worse, his ongoing conduct has led me to conclude that he is not currently fit to take the court in an NBA game,” Mr. Stern said in a statement. “Accordingly, I am suspending Mr. Arenas indefinitely, without pay, effective immediately pending the completion of the investigation by the NBA.”
With each game he misses, Mr. Arenas will lose about $147,200 of the $16.2 million he will earn this season in the second of a six-year, $111 million contract. The punishment came on his 28th birthday.
A Wizards spokesman said Mr. Arenas left the team, which is playing in Cleveland, earlier Wednesday but didn’t know where he was going.
“It’s sad,” Wizards guard DeShawn Stevenson said. “You don’t want to see a player go down like that. We’re a family, and it hurts.”
The Wizards supported Mr. Stern’s decision in a statement attributed to President Ernie Grunfeld and the Pollin family, which owns the team. The late Abe Pollin changed the team’s name from the Bullets because of the violent connotation.
“Strictly legal issues aside, Gilbert’s recent behavior and statements, including his actions and statements last night in Philadelphia, are unacceptable,” the statement said. “Some of our other players appeared to find Gilbert’s behavior in Philadelphia amusing. This is also unacceptable. Under Abe Pollin’s leadership, our organization never tolerated such behavior, and we have no intention of ever doing so.”
A lawyer who has been representing Arenas in the gun matter did not respond to a request for comment. Mr. Arenas does not have a traditional player agent.
Since the firearms language was strengthened in the 2005 Collective Bargaining Agreement, NBA players are subject to discipline if they bring guns to the arena or practice facility, or even an offsite promotional appearance.
Mr. Arenas originally said he brought four guns to the Verizon Center in Washington because he wanted them out of his house after his daughter was born. But two officials within the league who have been briefed on the investigation have told the Associated Press that the incident stemmed from a dispute over card-playing gambling debts and a heated discussion in the locker room with teammate Javaris Crittenton. The New York Post, however, reported that the two teammates drew weapons on each other.
In a statement he released after meeting with authorities Monday, Mr. Arenas said he took unloaded guns from his locker in a “misguided effort to play a joke” on a teammate.
“Joke or not, I now recognize that what I did was a mistake and was wrong,” Mr. Arenas said. “I should not have brought the guns to DC in the first place, and I now realize that there’s no such thing as joking around when it comes to guns — even if unloaded.”
Mr. Stern said members of the Wizards organization are being interviewed by law enforcement authorities.
“Some are scheduled for appearance before the grand jury and the investigation is proceeding with the intensity that one would expect for such a serious incident,” he said.