I was pleasantly surprised when I read the op-ed section in this morning’s Washington Post and came across a piece from Gilbert Arenas, who recently plead guilty to a felony count of carrying a pistol without a license. The professional basketball player for the Washington Wizards was suspended by the NBA for his actions.
I say pleasantly surprised because all of his prior activity has been questionable at best. He's exhibited disrespectful behavior to the very serious gun safety issue in society today, particularly in his hometown of Washington D.C.
However, in this op-ed, Gilbert acknowledges how serious of an issue this is in today’s society and he apologizes for his recent poor decisions, expressing regret and humility. He goes on to title his op-ed “Learning to be a better role model." The op-ed was very sincere and showed an important first step in a long rebuilding process with fans, the Pollin family, the Washington Wizards and the NBA. He writes:
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 am trying hard to right my wrongs… But if I help steer even just one young person away from violence and trouble, then I'll once again feel that I'm living up to Abe Pollin's legacy and to the responsibility I owe the kids of the District.
It took Arenas longer than it should have for him to come out with a message like this, but at least he's doing it now.
From a PR perspective, choosing to share his message through an op-ed piece with a local, respected newspaper is a safe play… one that I think was effective in this situation. However, the game has just begun for Arenas.
It’s now time to continue showing respect for such an important issue in society and take advantage of this unfortunate opportunity he’s put himself in. He now must use this situation to not only stress the importance of gun safety to children, but to also become the role model he says he wants to be.