Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell was arrested at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport last week after TSA agents discovered a loaded gun in his carry-on bag.
The five-time NBA Most Valuable Player was cited for having a weapon in a prohibited area and later released Wednesday after security personnel found the .38-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun with six bullets in it in his bag at a checkpoint.
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"Before boarding my flight from Seattle to Boston, I had accidentally left a legal firearm in my bag," the 79-year-old said in a statement obtained by the Boston Herald
. "I apologize and truly regret the mistake. I was issued a citation by the TSA, whose agents couldn't have been more thorough and professional when dealing with this. I really appreciate their efforts to keep air travel safe."
According to the TSA, legally owned firearms may be carried unloaded
in checked baggage and stored in a locked, hard-sided container. All weapons are prohibited in carry-on luggage.
Russell was a Celtics star in the 1950s and 1960s, leading the team to 11 NBA championships. He then went on to coach the Seattle SuperSonics from 1973 to 1977.
He was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.
"Bill Russell is the former Boston Celtics' captain who almost single-handedly redefined the game of basketball," the White House said in a statement at the time. "Russell led the Celtics to a virtually unparalleled string of 11 championships in 13 years and was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player five times. The first African-American to coach in the NBA — indeed he was the first to coach a major sport at the professional level in the United States — Bill Russell is also an impassioned advocate of human rights. He marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and has been a consistent advocate of equality."
The city of Boston and the Celtics are scheduled to honor Russell with a statue on City Hall Plaza to be unveiled Nov. 1.
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