Past The Press Box

Gilbert Arenas takes PR into his own hands on Twitter

At first, Gilbert Arenas didn't get it. He didn't understand Twitter at all. He refused to use the service until he had 1,000,000 followers. Then, all hell broke lose as he was accused of pulling a gun on a teammate in the locker room over a gambling debt. Getting out in front of that from a public relations standpoint is a virtual impossibility. That hasn't stopped Gilbert Arenas from trying.

As Will Leitch points out, Arenas is changing how athletes deal with crisis and how we view Twitter:

In the past, if a player were accused of pulling a gun on a teammate in the locker room, he would deny the story and then issue "no comments" the rest of the way. Today? They take to the Twitter. Newly minted twitterer Gilbert Arenas exploded this weekend, blasting Peter Vecsey and Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski, telling bad racial jokes and, at one crazy moment, listing all the directors of failed 1995 cinema experiment Four Rooms.

Arenas is flying the face of traditional public relations. He isn't he eliminating any and all exposure (Tiger) or going with the usual denial/no comment (almost everyone implicated in a steroids scandal). He's going for more exposure, more controversy. Now, is this a horrible idea that should never be a attempted or a new school of thought that's worth considering?

Gilbert Arenas is not trying to keep things vanilla. One of his recent stories talked about him teasing Rob Suller, a man who works on the Wizards staff, for having one good arm. It's lighthearted and he never offends anyone in the story but it's certainly a touch controversial. So is tweeting about cheating on your girlfriend, even if it is a joke. His most recent story, much less controversial, went on to illustrate how one should always be appreciative and never take anything for granted.

No matter what the subject, Arenas is being honest and speaking with emotion. It's transparency at its purest.He's taken particular interest in calling out the writers who have criticized and reported on him, particularly the New York Post's Peter Vecsey. An example:

NY post should eject Peter V FROM WRITNG EVERY do u and ur partner tell 3 stories and all 3 r not true.the blind leadin the blind

peter one question on ur sayin that i took out a loan from JC to pay javale...HUH..thats like jordan farmer givin kobe a loan

what the hell i need a loan from a teammate who on his rookie deal?and 60,000 mannn this price keeps rising.i hope u meant 60 dollars

Peter sum advice from a formal blogger...People like the truth u cant make the movie Gigli seem like its regroup and try again tmw

from the words of ED LOVER...peter...C'MON SON

It's not all that easy to side with Gil—either way, he had guns in the locker room and pointed one at a teammate—but it is simple to see where he's coming from. He may not be interacting as much as some NBA stars but he's been as good as anyone at getting his perspective out to fans by way of Twitter. It's as if a buddy did something everyone knows is a bit stupid but you can sympathize with him because you know he was just messing around.

The lessons that could be learned from Gil are the same as the ones I illustrated when I wrote about Mark Titus of Club Trillion:

  • Show some humility. While Gil does talk about how much money he's making he also mentions that he's staying in on New Years Eve, is sorry if anyone was offended by his pregame joke and acknowledges when he's being a bit boring.
  • Have a voice. No, Gil cannot spell. It doesn't matter. You can tell the words are his own and what he really means. It's as if what he's putting out via Twitter is the same thing he's texting a buddy.
  • Blur the line. Gil's doing it as much as any athlete in social media. In the aforementioned story about the one-armed team manager he mentions asking him if he can swim. When Rob Suller, the team manager, says yes Gil responds "I don't mean in circles."

Sure, the type of language and stories used by Gilbert Arenas on Twitter aren't the type of thing you'd want in an Adidas ad but right now they're doing more good than harm. I may not always agree with what he's saying and might even squirm a bit at times but I still feel as though he's actually communicating. He's giving me a view a wouldn't normally receive. Like I said before, it's as if you're getting a text from Gil, like one friend trying to explain his story to another.

Times are changing for athletes. As time goes on, any athlete who pleads 'no comment' and lets his or her public relations staff take care of it will seem more and more behind the times. They may even seem more 'guilty'. Fans have a newfound desire to bypass the press and get the story from the teams and athletes and teams they follow. These athletes and teams need to take advantage of it.

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Comments (2) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Timothy R. Hughes - January 6, 2010 7:43 PM

Gil's posts may take the cake for single stupidest move by an athlete facing likely criminal prosecution. So much for 5th Amendment having some traction.

Colin O'Keefe - January 6, 2010 8:07 PM

I won't say that it was the smartest thing to do but because of his transparency I've trusted him. I always thought he was just a goof and this whole thing has gotten a bit out of hand. And based on the most recent report, it sounds like that's just the case.

From the Washington Post:
"Arenas has acknowledged bringing his handguns to the arena and displaying them in the locker room that morning in what he maintained was a playful gesture aimed at his teammate.

According to two first-hand accounts of the confrontation, Crittenton responded to Arenas's action -- which included laying the four unloaded weapons in Crittenton's cubicle with a note that read, "Pick One" -- by brandishing his own firearm, loading a clip of ammunition into the gun and cocking the weapon.

Two of the five people in the room that morning, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Arenas had originally not disclosed Crittenton's action to protect the little-used guard from prosecution and had told Crittenton he would assume full responsibility for the actions of both players that day. "

The American Sportswriter_