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Sunday, March 07, 2010
The Washington Wizards Dumped Jamison, Butler, and Haywood. Can they Dump Arenas and his Contract?

I have a new column up at the Huffington Post that takes a close look at the question on the minds of the Washington Wizards and their fans: Can the team terminate Gilbert Arenas' contract? An excerpt is included below. You can find the full column here. Also, for those looking for quick sports law updates throughout the day, you can follow me on twitter here... (Note: Link is now fixed)

So, the $80 million question comes down to this -- was the "egregious nature" of Arenas' conduct "so lacking in justification as to warrant" a league-imposed 50 game suspension and the termination of his contract?...The closest precedent we have for this case is the infamous choking incident involving Latrell Sprewell.

For the Wizards to terminate Arenas' contract, they would likely have to convince David Stern (and perhaps an arbitrator) that Arenas' conduct was more egregious than Sprewell's. Would they have a compelling argument? Perhaps. Let's compare the two. Arenas violated a specific written NBA rule prohibiting the possession of guns on NBA property (on a team that changed its name from the Bullets to the Wizards to avoid an association with gun violence). Sprewell violated a rule that was so obvious ("don't choke your coach") the NBA did not feel the need to write it down. Arenas compounded the situation by joking about the incident on twitter and in a pre-game team huddle on the court. Sprewell, after being wrestled away from his coach by his teammates, retreated to the locker room to cool off, and then returned to the court 20 minutes later to throw a punch at Carlesimo (and was later charged with reckless driving and served three months under house arrest during his suspension). Arenas had a prior gun offense -- he was suspended in 2004 for failing to properly register a gun. Sprewell had a prior fighting offense -- two years before the choking incident, Sprewell fought with his teammate Jerome Kersey. After the fight, he threatened to return with a gun (fret not, he only returned with a two-by-four).


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