I am no fan of thugs or wannabes in professional sports, but NBA Commissioner David Stern is making Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas a scapegoat for Stern's own past inaction in dealing with violence among NBA players. Stern announced this week that he was indefinitely suspending Arenas, saying that Arenas "is not currently fit to take the court in an NBA game."
Stern's action ostensibly stems from an incident involving Arenas bringing unloaded guns to the Wizards locker room in December and then joking about the incident. But the real impetus seems to be some effective mau-mauing on the part of Al Sharpton, who claims to have called Stern personally to pressure him to get tough with Arenas. Sharpton has suddenly become interested in reducing violence in the black community. Now that's a noble goal, but Sharpton is rather late in coming to the conclusion that black-on-black violence is a major issue, having spent much of his career fanning the flames of racial hatred.
Sharpton has yet to renounce his own role in provoking an arson attack against a Jewish storeowner in Harlem in 1995, which killed seven victims; or his involvement in the Tawana Brawley hoax, in which a 15-year-old girl falsely accused six white men, including police officers, of having abducted, raped and tortured her; and dozens of other similar incidents. Listening to the likes of Sharpton suggests Stern is the one not "fit" to keep his job.
There is no question that Arenas made a mistake, and one that requires some penalty, but his actions both on and off the court belie the notion that he is some gang-banger wannabe inspiring young black men to violence. Neither David Stern nor Al Sharpton seems to have a clue as to who Gilbert Arenas really is. Unlike so many of his colleagues in the NBA, Arenas is a model citizen: a family man; a philanthropist who gives not only money but his time to helping underprivileged kids in D.C.; a man who showed up in person at the D.C. Armory with $18,000 in clothing and toiletries to help Hurricane Katrina victims; a man who donated $100 for every point he scored to DC area schools, raising $215,000 in one season. He doesn't do this stuff for publicity but because he believes in giving back to his community.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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