But Stern's actions aren't just misguided given Arenas' character. Stern has repeatedly dealt with far more egregious behavior on the part of NBA players by doing nothing or with slaps on the wrist. Just this season, Cleveland Cavaliers player Delonte West was pulled over for driving recklessly and cutting off a police officer. West was arrested when police found a loaded Beretta 9mm in his waistband, a loaded Ruger .357 magnum strapped to his leg, and a loaded shotgun slung over his back. Yet Stern never suspended West. And he only suspended NBA players Stephen Jackson, who fired a gun outside a strip club in 2007, for seven games, and Sebastian Telfair for two games for carrying a gun aboard a team flight in 2006.
However, that was before Sharpton pressured Stern. Why is Stern even listening to a guy who fanned anti-Semitic riots in Crown Heights, N.Y., saying, "If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house" and referring to Jews as "diamond merchants." Nor has Sharpton changed his tune; in the last presidential campaign, he said of Republican candidate Mitt Romney, "As for the one Mormon running for office, those who really believe in God will defeat him."
Instead of listening to Sharpton, Stern should spend some time getting to know the players whose lives he exerts such control over. He's passed judgment on Arenas before all the facts are fully investigated. If Stern were a judge passing sentence on someone accused of a crime, he'd hear from character witnesses and try to assess whether the behavior was indicative of a single mistake or part of a worrisome pattern that deserved harsh justice. Arenas does not deserve to have his career ended by a single -- if admittedly awful -- incident of bad judgment.
Arenas has shown time and again that he's one of the good guys in the NBA, and there are all too few of them to see him pay the price for Stern's failure to deal with those who deserve to be sent packing. Stern should give him another chance. He's worth it.
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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