Parker, Duncan in controversial gun photo
However, this could not have come at a worse time. The Spurs have very recently been sanctioned by the NBA for resting their stars in what was supposed to be a marquee matchup against the Heat. Nothing gun or violence-related, but negative press for the team regardless.
Perhaps more related, is the recent NFL tragedy where a Chiefs player shot his girlfriend and then took his own life. This was just one in a number of incidents involving athletes' poor decisions involving guns. Perhaps the names Pacman Jones, Plaxico Burress, or Gilbert Arenas ring a bell. Athletes and guns don't seem to mix.
The broader problem with this picture is the message that it sends - when there is a problem or something I don't like, guns are a legitimate solution. This only adds gasoline to fire that is the current gun culture. This is particularly true within the culture in which some of these athletes are raised. Seeing superstar athletes taking part in such actions only further perpetuates this love affair with guns. Costas spent part of Sunday Night Football making some remarks regarding gun use by athletes and others in general; now we have this picture surface involving more athletes and guns. And these are supposed to be the athletes that the NBA promotes as model citizens and ambassadors for other players to emulate and fans to adore.
Now I get it. This was meant as a joke, and it was done in a "private" place (come on, athletes, no place is private these days...). But to have two seemingly upstanding players in the league implicitly endorsing this kind of behavior is problematic. To have a target that specific (having Crawford's name on the shirt) makes this even more problematic. I know that referees need to have thick skin, but I don't see how you don't find that at least a little bit intimidating if you're Joey Crawford.
Knowing full well the tenuous relationship between athletes and guns, and specifically the NBA's constant struggle to avoid the label of a league of thugs (read Arfican-Americans, unfortunately), I think that Stern will come down harshly on this action. And I think that he has to. Parker and Duncan have forced his hand here.