David Stern's Gag Order on Gilbert Arenas Kills Redemption
It's called free speech. It's for the good of the country, but it's also splendid for the health of sports leagues.
As for the latter, in the aftermath of your league catching and punishing knuckleheads, you allow them to express themselves openly along the way to showing they finally get it -- or to giving you an early sign that you'd better get rid of them before they embarrass the league, their team and themselves by doing something crazier.
Instead, Stern muzzled Gilbert Arenas, among the kings of knuckleheads after his little gun situation last year.
To worsen matters, Stern also muzzled Arenas' coaches and bosses with the Washington Wizards. They were told by the commissioner, who swings those jabs and hooks when he wants to get his point across, that they aren't to discuss that little gun situation that got Arenas a 50-game suspension and a month's stay in a halfway house.
So this wasn't surprising: earlier this week during the Wizards' media day, Arenas was available to reporters for exactly three minutes and 12 seconds before Wizards officials yanked him away.
Actually, "muzzled" is too kind to describe Stern's actions involving Arenas. And forget about the commissioner saying that he simply "strongly advised" Gilbert and everybody else associated with the Wizards to keep their mouths shut about the gun thing.
They've been censored, threatened and ordered into silence.
This is outrageous. These types of wrongheaded edicts allow knuckleheads to get off lightly, and they have a tendency to become trendy by spreading from commissioner to commissioner.
Imagine if Bud Selig issued a proclamation earlier in the decade that nobody associated with baseball was allowed to discuss anything involving performance-enhancing drugs. Yes, Jose Canseco still would have squealed as a former player. And, yes, courtesy of the feds, who sort of require you to say something, you still would have had Sammy Sosa forgetting how to speak English on Capitol Hill, and Rafael Palmeiro wagging his finger in defiance to U.S. Congressmen, and Mark McGwire stressing he wasn't there to talk about the past.
It's just that you still would have bloated slugging and pitching numbers every year, and you still would have even more steroid guys just a few years into retirement away from health and mental issues that have yet to be determined.
Here's another thing: what if Roger Goodell told Michael Vick after his 18-month stay at Leavenworth that he wasn't to discuss dogfighting or his other knuckleheaded moves through the years? Kevin Kolb still would be Donovan McNabb's replacement for the Philadelphia Eagles, because Vick wouldn't be on the team or likely in the league.
Vick was given another chance in pro football due to his tongue as well as his arm and his legs.
When is the last time you heard about a massive animal-rights protest against Vick? You haven't. Vick has defused the controversy by speaking on the evils of dogfighting without hesitation. Plus, even after he danced with stupidity earlier this year with his birthday party in a nightclub that featured a shooting involving one of his old dogfighting pals, he never ducked questions afterward.
The results? Forgiveness -- and playing time.
No quarterback is hotter than Vick during his last two weeks as the Eagles' starter. He has grown as a sympathetic figure to some and has continued as an icon to others. Through it all, he unofficially has said "no comment" to zero questions about his dogfighting past, etc.
In contrast, Stern wants Arenas and the Wizards to keep tight lips whenever somebody mentions that little gun situation.
Yeah, that makes sense.
The little gun situation featured Arenas bringing weapons into the Wizards' locker room in a misguided attempt at humor after an argument with teammate Javaris Crittenton over a bet. Among other things, it's against the law to display guns like that in Washington D.C.
Wizards officials were not amused, especially since their team is the Los Angeles Clippers of the East.
In fact, the Wizards are worse than the Clippers as the only team over the past 25 years not to win at least 47 games in a season. The Wizards also haven't captured a division title since the Jimmy Carter administration. Then, with their sparse crowds yawning over a roster moving toward 26 victories last season (following 19 the season before), they had their biggest star trying to play John Wayne or something.
The Wizards eventually removed an oversized banner of Arenas' likeness that was on the side of their home arena, and they instructed all of their team stores to purge his jerseys.
Mostly, in an attempt to change their eternally bad karma, the Wizards used the first pick in the draft this spring to select John Wall, the former Kentucky star, who looks as unblemished as Arenas is tarnished.
What a shame for Arenas. I mean, the man formerly known as Agent Zero needs redemption, but Stern's gag order just strangled any chance of his image problem changing soon. That's because he doesn't have to become Latrell Sprewell, who kept talking after he tried to choke a coach, or Kobe Bryant, who kept talking after he was accused of rape, or Ron Artest, who kept talking after he helped trigger a brawl.
Arenas doesn't have to keep talking about anything, especially when it involves THAT.
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