NEW YORK (Reuters) - Gilbert Arenas and Washington Wizards team mate Javaris Crittenton were suspended without pay for the rest of the NBA season on Wednesday for bringing guns into the team's locker room.
NBA commissioner David Stern, who met with both players this week to discuss last month's incident, said there was no justification for their actions and that guns in the workplace would not be tolerated by the league.
"We mean what we say when we say that guns are prohibited from being in our buildings and in team business," Stern said on a conference call.
"And if you violate that prohibition ... you will be dealt with harshly because it's very potentially dangerous to our players and to anyone else who might be involved."
Following a dispute during a flight home from a game in December, the two players later brought weapons into the locker room at the team's arena. NBA rules prohibit players from bringing firearms to league and team facilities.
Stern said both Arenas and Crittenton expressed remorse for their actions and an understanding of the seriousness of their transgressions during face-to-face meetings with both players that lasted about an hour each.
Arenas, 28, had already been suspended indefinitely by the NBA pending an investigation and the Wizards have since removed all likenesses of him from their arena.
"Mr. Arenas respects Commissioner Stern's decision to issue a suspension for the remainder of the season," Arenas's attorney, Ken Wainstein, said in a statement.
"Mr. Arenas recognizes that his actions were a serious violation of the law and league rules and were detrimental to the NBA and its reputation.
"He accepts full responsibility for what he did, and takes no issue with the length of the suspension or the process that led to the Commissioner's decision."
Crittenton, 22, pleaded guilty on Monday to misdemeanor gun possession charges and was sentenced to a year of unsupervised probation and required to perform community service.
Arenas still faces a tentative sentencing date of March 26 after pleading guilty on January 15 to felony weapons possession for bringing four guns to the locker room. He could get up to six months in prison under his plea deal.
The Wizards, who have a 14-30 record with 38 games left in the season, said they fully supported the NBA's decision.
"We hope that this negative situation can produce something positive by serving as a reminder that gun violence is a serious issue," the Wizards said in a statement. "We look forward to putting this unfortunate incident behind us."
When asked how he felt upon first hearing of the news of the locker room incident in Washington, Stern said he just felt the need to do something to protect the game and its players.
"I've spent a career on the one hand having to dispense punishment because that comes with the job, but on the other hand trying to protect a group of players for whom I have a very high regard," said Stern.
"And we also to protect them from doing things that are foolish and damaging to themselves particularly but also to the league and I felt that Gilbert was in the process of that and it was incumbent upon me to stop it."
(Reporting by Simon Evans in Miami, Frank Pingue in Toronto, and Steve Ginsburg in Washington); Editing by Peter Rutherford and Ed Osmond)