Pollin says Leonsis is 'a good guy'

Updated: January 29, 2004, 8:20 PM ET
Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- After his partner was suspended and fined for tussling with a Capitals fan, Washington Wizards owner Abe Pollin said Thursday that Ted Leonsis has "got to learn to take" the setbacks of sports ownership.

In wide-ranging remarks to reporters following the Wizards' practice, Pollin said he received an apology from Leonsis for the confrontation that resulted Wednesday in Leonsis' one-week suspension and $100,000 fine.

"He said, 'Abe, I made a major mistake. I'm sorry. I'll never do it again,"' Pollin said.

Pollin sold the Capitals and a minority share of the Wizards and the MCI Center to Leonsis in 1999. Leonsis has first right to buy the NBA team and the arena should Pollin decide to sell.

Leonsis scuffled with a 20-year-old fan following the Capitals' home loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday. Leonsis has since apologized publicly and has invited the fan to the owners' box for a future game.

"I've been in this business for 40 years," Pollin said. "And I've been through a lot of frustrating things, but you've got to learn to take it. If you can't take it, you might as well get out of this business because you're going to have a lot of downers. If you can't handle it, you're in trouble. He understands, and he apologized. He's a good guy and he is very passionate. He just lost it for a minute."

It's the second time Pollin has delivered such a message following an uncharacteristic outburst from the usually gregarious Leonsis.

After a playoff loss last April, Leonsis lashed out at fans and the Capitals' treatment by the MCI Center -- a direct shot at Pollin. Pollin said he responded by sending Leonsis a note saying he'd "been there and done that" and that Leonsis should be thankful for his family and good fortunes in life. Both men have since said that their relationship is fine.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press