John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Posted on January 7, 2010

A Surge for Detroit?

While the national media is focused almost exclusively on the underwear bomber, another story has emanated from Washington that has captured my attention.

The Washington Wizards basketball star Gilbert Arenas is in hot water with the NBA because he brought three handguns into the Wizards’ locker room as he argued with one of his teammates over a card game.  The guns were unloaded, thankfully.  His teammate then brandished his own loaded gun as a response.

NBA Commissioner David Stern has indefinitely suspended Mr. Arenas for his actions.  Stern is “shocked, shocked” that an NBA star would carry a gun into the locker room.

He shouldn’t be too shocked.  It is not exactly a secret that many professional athletes and entertainers pack pieces with them wherever they go.  Remember when Plaxico Burress, the New York Giants wide receiver, was convicted in New York City for shooting himself in the leg after he went to a night club in the Big Apple.  And there are plenty of other similar stories that have hit the headlines over the last several years.

Why do these professional athletes arm themselves?

Well, some undoubtedly do it for protection.  They make a lot of money and they can be targets for robbers or worse.  And some do it because they come from the streets and it is part of their culture.

I am not one to usually agree with Al Sharpton, but he had an insightful column in today’s Washington Post. “Guns are not a joke. Violence and recklessness continue to be treated as acceptable and even heroic behavior by part of our society. When I was growing up in the ghettos of Brooklyn, my peers and I knew unemployment, bad schools and social marginalization, but our athletic and entertainment heroes inspired us to beat the odds. Our ambition was to not submit to a subculture that would confirm the worst depiction of who we were and what our destiny would be.”

Well, things are different now.  Now many of these athletes seem to embrace the gun-toting, drug-dealing, gang-banding ghetto culture.  They have their gang symbol tattoos, they bring their guns, they listen to their gang-glorifying music, and they lead lives that seem inspired less by the example of Jackie Robinson or Barack Obama, and more by the examples of the local crime boss.

This seems like another teachable moment for President Obama.

Yes, I understand that he should be focused on terrorism.  But there is another war on terror that needs to be waged.  And that war is against the drug dealers and the gang bangers who are still shooting up the streets of too many of our big cities.

More than 16,000 people were murdered in 2008, a sizeable portion of whom were caught up in gun violence in our nation’s toughest neighborhoods.

Last year, the USA Today reporter:  “Criminal gangs in the USA have swelled to an estimated 1 million members responsible for up to 80% of crimes in communities across the nation, according to a gang threat assessment compiled by federal officials.”

We have a problem with terrorism, yes.  But we have an ongoing, bigger problem with crime in our country, and that needs to be confronted.

The President has spent a bunch of time talking about health care, about Wall Street, about Afghanistan, about Iraq, about global warming and about how great he is.

He hasn’t said a word about how we should confront the problems that are continuing to plague our most crime-plagued cities.

He authorized a surge into Afghanistan.  How about a surge into Detroit?

It seems to me that this Gilbert Arenas situation gives the President a nice opportunity to talk turkey to those who like to glorify the gangbanger life-style.

He should bring Bill Cosby, John Lewis, Dr. Dre,  LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Will Smith, Denzel Washington,  and Magic Johnson into the White House, and have a summit on how to stop our kids from killing each other.

That might be the best thing he could do for America.