NEW YORK, January 7 – National Basketball Association commissioner David Stern suspended Gilbert Arenas indefinitely Wednesday, saying the Washington Wizards playmaker "is not currently fit to take the court."
Arenas ran afoul of NBA rules when he brought guns to the Wizards arena, and he has provoked further ire by his apparently lighthearted response to the controversy.
He said he was storing unloaded weapons in a container in his locker to keep them away from his children at home, but Arenas and the league were engulfed in controversy when The New York Post reported Arenas and a teammate had drawn guns on each other in a December incident.
Arenas has insisted that account was overblown, but the incident remains under investigation by law enforcement authorities.
Stern said in a statement that Arenas’ actions will "ultimately result in a substantial suspension, and perhaps worse."
"The possession of firearms by an NBA player in an NBA arena is a matter of the utmost concern to us," Stern said.
The commissioner said he first planned to refrain from taking action because of the pending criminal investigation, which includes a grand jury sitting in the District of Columbia.
But Stern indicated that Arenas’ behavior had prompted him to take immediate action.
Wizards played Tuesday night in Philadelphia, and before that game he was photographed surrounded by teammates, smiling and pointing his index fingers at them as if they were guns.
"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," Stern said. "Accordingly, I am suspending Mr. Arenas indefinitely, without pay, effective immediately pending the completion of the investigation by the NBA."
Arenas, who turned 28 on Wednesday, is slated to make 16.2 million dollars this season.
The Wizards voiced support for Stern’s decision.
"Strictly legal issues aside, Gilbert’s recent behavior and statements, including his actions and statements last night in Philadelphia, are unacceptable," said a statement attributed to president Ernie Grunfeld and the Pollin family, who own the team.
"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."
Late owner Abe Pollin changed the team’s name from the Bullets because of the violent connotation.
Arenas responded with a statement apologizing for putting the league in a negative light.
"I feel very badly that my actions have caused the NBA to suspend me, but I understand why the league took this action," Arenas said. "I put the NBA in a negative light and let down my teammates and our fans. I am very sorry for doing that.
"While I never intended any harm or disrespect to the NBA or anyone else, my gun possession at the Verizon Center and my attempts at humor showed terrible judgment. I take full responsibility for my conduct."
Arenas said he had called Stern to apologize.
"I look forward to the day I can return to basketball," Arenas said. "In the meantime, I will focus on dealing responsibly with this serious situation and I will continue to cooperate fully with the investigations by law enforcement and NBA authorities."