Tribute to Abe Pollin (1923-2009)

President Barack Obama on the Death of Abe Pollin:
"Michelle and I were deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Abe Pollin – a giant in the world of professional sports and someone I was proud to call a friend. Abe was a man who knew that being an owner wasn’t just about winning championships, although his teams had plenty of success. It was about helping young athletes become good people as well as good players. And it was about being part of a community. Abe believed in Washington, D.C. when many others didn’t – putting his own fortune on the line to help revitalize the city he loved. He was committed to the teams he guided, generous to those who needed it most, and as loyal to the people of D.C. as they were to him. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Irene, his sons Robert and James, and the entire Pollin family."

NBA Commissioner David Stern:
“With Abe Pollin’s passing, the NBA family has lost its most revered member, whose stewardship of the Wizards franchise, together with his wife Irene, has been a study in unparalleled dedication to the city of Washington. During his illness he fought with a determination and valor that will remain an inspiration to all. We extend our deepest sympathies to Irene and his two sons, to whom he was so very devoted, and to the entire Pollin family.”

Bullets Legend Wes Unseld
“I just lost a real good friend. I think it is more than any of you will ever understand. There is just going to be a big void in this community and even further out. He knew the whole scene. He could visualize it when people like me couldn’t understand it. He had that type of mentality.”

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty:
“Today the District of Columbia has lost one of our greatest treasures. Abe Pollin almost single-handedly revitalized the Gallery Place / Chinatown neighborhood by turning down offers from suburban jurisdictions to finance and build the Verizon Center on 7th Street NW. My deepest condolences go out to Mr. Pollin’s family, most especially his wife Irene, who was always his partner, in sports, construction, philanthropy, and of course, family.

Abe Pollin will be remembered in the District for adopting our city as his hometown, having lived in the area since the age of eight; for more than 40 years as owner of the Washington Wizards; and for being the original owner of the National Hockey League’s Washington Capitals and the Women’s National Basketball Association’s Washington Mystics.

He will be truly missed.”

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton:

"Abe Pollin built an unparalleled sports empire that left almost no game out, but his heart was in building a better District of Columbia. His agreement to bring his teams from Maryland and build the Verizon Center in the midst of the city’s worst financial crisis in this century was emblematic of his devotion to the town that helped form him from his childhood. In more small and large ways than will ever be widely known, Abe made himself citizen number one in this city. I had many occasions to work with Abe and Irene, who has made unique contributions on her own to our city. What I will remember beyond my friendships with Abe and Irene is how generously they befriended the District of Columbia."

Majority Owner of Lincoln Holdings Ted Leonsis
“We are all saddened by the news of Mr. Pollin’s passing. We extend our deepest sympathies to Irene, Robert, Jimmy, the rest of the Pollin family and his many friends and join them, and all of Washington, in mourning a great man. Mr. Pollin was a model philanthropist, an icon in the sports world and the individual responsible for founding the Capitals and bringing an NBA championship to our city. He was the catalyst in building a fabulous downtown arena that revitalized the surrounding area. Anyone walking down 7th Street, seeing the throngs of excited fans, the host of popular restaurants, hotels and nightspots, can attest to the lasting legacy of Mr. Pollin’s deep commitment to D.C. My partners and I were proud to work with him and his family during the last ten years and we are committed to continuing his tradition of building exciting, championship-caliber teams. When Lincoln Holdings bought the Capitals and a substantial percentage of Washington Sports & Entertainment from Mr. Pollin in 1999, he gave us the exclusive right to purchase the remaining portion of the Wizards, Verizon Center and the local Ticketmaster franchise. That agreement established an orderly process for conducting that transaction and it is our intention to follow that process. Now is not the time, however, to discuss that subject; our focus now should be on mourning a great man who has done so much for our city.”

Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld

“Mr. Pollin was a titan in the city of Washington and the NBA. His vision changed the landscape of the city, and his generosity and commitment to making his community a better place will be felt by many generations to come.”

President of Business Operations and CFO Peter Biche

“When we came there was sort of nothing here. Now there is stuff going on even when there aren’t games, and I think that is the true tribute to him. This building will be here for a long time and its impact is beyond the building itself. That is one of the great things he has done for this city. The guy is a lion as far as I’m concerned, in the sports world and also in the Washington community. They just don’t make them like that very often.”

Chief of Staff and Executive Vice President Matt Williams

“There is nobody that wanted to win more than him. If we won a game, you knew it was going to be a good next day in the office and if we lost it was going to be a bad day. That is just the way it was and that is why he was in the business.”

Bullets Legend/TV Analyst Phil Chenier

“Every time I walk down the streets here in this area, the streets all lit up, I think about how this is Abe and Irene’s project. They started it all with this building and everything was built around it. Now this is the focal point of the city.”

Head Coach Flip Saunders

“What stood out was his passion he had for this team and his love for the city. More than anything, he wanted this team to be successful for the city. He wanted to win another championship. That is something that will always be on our mind.”

Guard Gilbert Arenas

“The first person I called was my dad because he was the father away from California. He wanted a championship before he died and as long as I’m here, that is what I’ll be shooting for. Through my injuries, through everything that has been going on, he’s the only one who has been by my side, him and the organization. It’s been a pleasure being his son away from his kids. He was loyal to his team and loved basketball.”

Center Brendan Haywood

“I think he loved the Washington Wizards as much as his family. He really tried to inspire us, put a lot in to this organization, and I think we all owe him a debt of gratitude. I love Mr. Pollin. He was always a straight shooter, told you everything that was on his mind and you have to respect that.”

Washington Redskins Owner Daniel M. Snyder:
"Abe Pollin was a great owner for Washington, as well as a personal friend. His legacy will live through his teams and the arena he built, and just as importantly, through his commitment to his family and to Washington. My thoughts and prayers go out to Irene and the rest of his wonderful family."

Statement from the Washington Nationals:
"The Washington Nationals and the Lerner family join all of the Washington DC community and sports fans nationally in mourning the loss of Abe Pollin. He was not just the beloved owner of sports teams in the Nation's Capital for almost 40 years; he was also a significant force in the rebirth of downtown Washington DC, and a magnanimous contributor to the personality, health, and well-being of everyone who calls our community home. He leaves an important legacy. Our deepest affection and condolences are with the Pollin family and the Washington Sports and Entertainment organization in their time of grief."

DC United President and CEO Kevin Payne:
"Abe Pollin was the most iconic figure on the Washington, D.C. sports scene and one of the most beloved owners in all of American sports. His decades-long stewardship of the Wizards, Capitals, and Mystics, his vision in developing the Verizon Center, and his deep commitment to the D.C. community made him an example for sports team owners and executives everywhere. On behalf of the players, staff, and fans of D.C. United, we extend our deepest sympathies to everyone at Washington Sports and Entertainment, and especially to the Pollin family."

Washington Convention and Sports Authority:
“The Washington Convention and Sports Authority, along with the entire Washington, D.C. community, mourns the passing of Abe Pollin, a legendary figure on the D.C. sports scene and a visionary whose dedication to the community is an inspiration to us all. He was a beloved sports owner in the District for more than 40 years and his pioneering efforts were a significant factor in the revitalization of downtown Washington. He will be missed, but his legacy will live on forever. We extend our sincere condolences to his wife Irene, his two sons and the entire Pollin family.”

District of Columbia At-Large Councilmember Kwame Brown's:
I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Abe Pollin, a true pioneer who contributed to the growth of professional sports and gave unselfishly to our communities. In 1997, Abe & Irene Pollin saw their dreams to fruition with the completion of a state of-the-art sports and entertainment facility in our nation’s capitol.

Mr. Pollin, not only achieved his goal to create a facility that would “be the catalyst that turned the city around,” he also demonstrated his commitment to ensuring that our residents became the primary benefactors of the city’s resurgence. Together, the Pollin’s contributions to our communities are invaluable. From employing many of our District residents to giving many of our students the opportunity to attend college, Mr. Pollin embodied the intangible qualities of a wonderful humanitarian, businessman and father, whose legacy will continue to inspire others.

The prayers of the Councilmember, his family and staff go to Abe Pollin’s wife and partner, Irene and his two sons Robert and James.

District of Columbia Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray:

I am saddened to learn of the passing of Abe Pollin, one of Washington’s most-respected businessmen and philanthropists. He and his wife, Irene, have made a huge difference on the lives of countless residents in the District of Columbia and in the region. My sincere condolences go to Mrs. Pollin and their family.

In the late 90s, Abe Pollin brought the Wizards and the Capitals to what’s now called the Verizon Center. Now, a decade later, the Pollin’s can take a large part of the credit for the bright lights, crowds and remarkable revitalization of downtown Washington.

It’s not just the mixture of sports and business that made Abe Pollin a household name. He also will be remembered for the benevolent business partnerships with the District that sparked housing and other projects to improve the quality of life for some of our residents most in need. I worked closely with Mr. Pollin on numerous projects and will miss his personal, gentle style of collaboration. Ironically, today I chaired a hearing on the plan for the continued cultural development and revitalization of Chinatown.

Mrs. Pollin was an active partner with her husband on many fronts. No doubt she will continue their immeasurable work to ensure Mr. Pollin’s legacy lives on.

District of Columbia Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans:

"He was a great man. His contributions to the city were enormous, to many of the philanthropic causes, to affordable housing, to the synagogue at Sixth and I, his reach was extraordinary. But what he will absolutely be remembered for is bringing the two teams, the Bullets and the Caps, to downtown Washington and the area that was absolutely deserted and dangerous. And then, when the city could not fulfill its part of the deal to build the arena, he used his own money. It was the catalyst for the revitalization of Washington. You can't say enough how much this city is indebted to Abe Pollin."

Washington Convention and Sports Authority CEO Greg O'Dell:

"The Washington Convention and Sports Authority, along with the entire Washington, D.C. community, mourns the passing of Abe Pollin, a legendary figure on the D.C. sports scene and a visionary whose dedication to the community is an inspiration to us all. He was a beloved sports owner in the District for more than 40 years and his pioneering efforts were a significant factor in the revitalization of downtown Washington. He will be missed, but his legacy will live on forever. We extend our sincere condolences to his wife Irene, his two sons and the entire Pollin family."

George Washington University President Stephen Knapp:

"Many years ago, Abe Pollin envisioned Washington, D.C., as an international sports town with a full complement of teams and events. The realization of that vision is no more present than in his legacy of accomplishments."

The Washington Post Editorial:

As far as Washingtonians are concerned, the most important thing about Abe Pollin is that he was one of us. By that we mean not that he was necessarily a man of the people, whatever that is these days, but simply that he was part of this community through and through. He did well here, and he did a lot of good in return. He made a fortune in construction but became better known as the owner of Washington's pro basketball team. And while he hadn't had a champion in a long time, he accomplished something far more important for Washington sports fans: Rather than taking teams out of this town, he brought them here. He built, first, an arena on the Beltway and then the one downtown that has contributed greatly to the renaissance of a neighborhood rich in history and tradition....

He was a thoughtful and public-spirited man whose list of charitable and civic activities -- helping feed and educate the city's schoolchildren, aiding the homeless, establishing a prize for pediatric research, and much, much more -- was as impressive as his work for mutual understanding and respect among the people of this region. Much of his life was a sustained effort, with his wife, Irene, to better the community, and for the most part it was carried on without a great deal of public attention.


As a member of AIPAC's board of directors and friend of many of our country's most influential policy makers and elected officials, Abe never missed an opportunity to stress the importance of America's special and unbreakable bond with the State of Israel.

We are profoundly saddened by his loss, but comforted by the knowledge that Abe's courageous and tireless spirit made a profound difference for a cause in which he deeply believed – the strength of the U.S.-Israel relationship.

The Israel Project:

"Mr. Pollin was a great lover of Israel and the Jewish people. He and Irene have been champions of important causes, both Jewish and in the wider community. Mr. Pollin joined The Israel Project’s board in June of 2004 and he was especially proud to fund our TV ads in Washington that showcased Israel’s democratic nature and desire for peace. He will be missed especially by the Jewish community and by the city of Washington, DC – a place that was made better 1,000 ways because of Abe Pollin."

Gallery Place developer Herb Miller:

He was always a very humble man, who could deal with anyone in any capacity. I didn’t know him well professionally until the last 15 years. We could never have built Gallery Place without his help and cooperation.

Two hundred years ago, 7th Street was the main street of the city, and then it died out in the 1950s, and our idea was to bring Main Street back alive. They had already built the Shakespeare Theater on 7th. The goal was to use 7th as the retail core of the city, to literally connect it: At one end, you had the Smithsonian with 30,000 visitors a year. We put the convention center at the other end. It was truly a community effort, but if it wasn’t for Abe Pollin nothing would have happened because he started it. For him to go build the Verizon Center with a risk associated with it---most people would have done it only if the government paid for everything. And bringing his teams into the city at a time was quite a bold and risky proposition. If you walked through downtown then, people were afraid to even go to downtown. People thought it was dangerous.

If he hadn’t committed to the first major project downtown, I don’t think the rest of it would have happened.

Script for Moment of Silence During the Wizards Pre-Game PA Announcement:
"Ladies and gentlemen…earlier today, the Washington Wizards family, Washington, DC and the entire world of sports lost one of its finest. The patriarch of what he fondly called ‘The Capital Centre Family’, Mr. Abe Pollin, passed away at the age of 85. A man that will forever be remembered as the owner of the Washington Wizards and Verizon Center, Pollin also formerly owned and operated the Washington Capitals, the Washington Mystics, and the Capital Centre, among other successful business ventures. Along with his wife Irene, through 46 years of ownership of the franchise as the longest tenured owners in the NBA, the Pollins were at the center of it all as the NBA exploded in growth from a small, regional league to a worldwide phenomenon. Mr. Pollin reached the pinnacle of his profession with the Washington Bullets World Championship in 1978, but for all that he accomplished in sports, his accomplishments in life were even greater. It’s only fitting that during this week of Thanksgiving, we give thanks to a man that never stopped sharing his thanks for all of the blessings that this world afforded him. Please join us in a long moment of silence for a great sportsman, businessman and philanthropist, without whom we wouldn’t be assembled in this grand venue tonight; Mr. Abe Pollin."


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