Russell, who won 11 NBA championships with the Boston Celtics and coached the Seattle Supersonics and Sacramento Kings, had a permit for the gun and was released. His background check was clear, an airport spokesman said.
Russell’s .38-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun was found at a security checkpoint Wednesday evening during routine screening of carry-on baggage, TSA spokeswoman Lori Dankers said in a statement. Russell was cited by Port of Seattle police on a state charge, she said.
Firearms, ammunition, firearm parts and realistic replicas of firearms are always prohibited in carry-on baggage. But those items can be transported in checked baggage provided a traveler declares them to the airline during the ticket counter check-in process.
Firearms in checked baggage must be unloaded and stored in a locked, hard-sided container.
In addition to facing local or state criminal charges, TSA will levy a civil penalty against a passenger who brings a firearm to the security checkpoint, Dankers said. The recommended civil penalty ranges from $3,000 to $7,500, but each penalty is evaluated on a case-by-case basis, she said.
Russell spent his career as a center for the Celtics from 1956 to 1969 and also won a gold medal in 1956 as captain of the U.S. national basketball team. A graduate of the University of San Francisco, Russell was also inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.
He first was a player-coach for the Celtics and became coach of the Supersonics in 1983. He became Sacramento’s coach in 1987.
Named one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players, Russell also was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011 for his efforts during the civil rights movement. Russell, 79, lives on Mercer Island, a city about a mile and a half east of Seattle.