Featured yesterday in The Washington Post is an Op-ed from suspended Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas. In his column, Arenas apologizes for his recent mistakes, which include pulling a gun on a teammate in the locker room, as well as mocking the ensuing media reports and making light of the situation.
I have done a number of things wrong recently. I violated D.C. gun laws and the NBA’s ban on firearms on league property, and I damaged the image of the NBA and its players. I reacted badly to the aftermath and made fun of inaccurate media reports, which looked as though I was making light of a serious situation. And I gave Commissioner David Stern good reason to suspend me from the game, which put my teammates in a tough position and let down our fans and Mrs. Irene Pollin, the widow of longtime Wizards owner Abe Pollin.
I understand the importance of teaching nonviolence to kids in today’s world. Guns and violence are serious problems, not joking matters — a lesson that’s been brought home to me over the past few weeks. I thought about this when I pleaded guilty as charged in court and when I accepted my NBA suspension without challenge.
That message of nonviolence will be front and center as I try to rebuild my relationship with young people in the D.C. area. I know that won’t happen overnight, and that it will happen only if I show through my actions that I am truly sorry and have learned from my mistakes. If I do that, then hopefully youngsters will learn from the serious mistakes I made with guns and not make any of their own.
I have to say though, while Arenas was absolutely wrong in what he did, and even worse in the hostility he presented after the fact, it is refreshing to see him come forth and take such responsibility. So often we see professional athletes trounce on their responsibility as role models and blissfully ignore, whether right or wrong, the immense burden that comes with being someone that others, particularly children, idolize. Arenas, however, is starting to confront that head on in a major way, not via a three-line agent-delivered statement.
I commend Arenas, for apologizing, acknowledging the error, and reminding both himself and his colleagues that being a professional athlete is a privilege that involves responsibilities that are not always bargained for.
Now it is time though for Arenas to put his money where is his mouth is and get to work, to start being the person, athlete and role model for which he strives.