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Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Guns in arenas

By Henry Abbott

Zach Lowe of CelticsHub points us to page 105 of "When the Game Was Ours," the book Jackie MacMullan wrote with Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.

It's part of a really troubling passage about how black players were treated in Boston decades ago. Robert Parish found himself continually pulled over or searched by police, and eventually stopped having dinner in the North End because of it. K.C. Jones was put on a waiting list at a golf club where his white friend got in immediately. A restaurant owner once asked Jones to leave because of the color of his skin.

In that setting, M.L. Carr purchased a gun. Lowe cited this paragraph:
After a couple of racial incidents involving his family, the affable Carr carried a registered gun with him at all times, including game days to and from Boston Garden, a practice he continued when he became coach.

That's probably enough to take some of the sting out of David Stern's indignation at the idea of guns at arenas -- Gilbert Arenas was far from the first. But read on!
"I never had to fire it," said Carr, "but that doesn't mean I didn't have to use it."

Wow. I don't even know what that means. But it sure sounds like there were some dangerous situations involving an armed NBA player or coach. That's the kind of thing that would result in serious trouble and extraordinary shame today. Yet Carr is a respected NBA character, and rightly so, despite doing something years ago that would have sullied his name today.

Which probably means nothing, for Gilbert Arenas and his sentencing. They're just very different cases. Carr was protecting himself with a registered gun in a racially tense city. Arenas was incorporating guns, in goofball fashion, into a real argument. The danger Arenas put people in was the height of unaware and unnecessary. Carr's story is very different, and hardly relevant.

It means a lot, however, in terms of recognizing where we are in history. It might seem like we're in a time when athletes are handling things like guns more than ever. But I could make a strong case that athletes are doing similar things to what they have always done, but are getting in the media for it more than ever.