Suspended Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas said in a story he wrote for The Washington Post that he'll try to rebuild his relationship with D.C. youth following his guilty plea on a felony gun charge.
The story appeared on the paper's Web site Monday.
Arenas and teammate Javaris Crittenton were suspended for the remainder of the season last week by NBA commissioner David Stern. Arenas entered a guilty plea Jan. 15 in District of Columbia Superior Court to a felony weapons possession charge after admitting to bringing four guns into the locker room following a heated argument with Crittenton during a card game on the team plane.
Arenas wrote in The Post that he realized he had let down the youth in the D.C. area and would work hard to regain the trust he had built with them.
"I understand the importance of teaching nonviolence to kids in today's world," Arenas wrote. "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."
Wizards coach Flip Saunders supported Arenas' decision to address the issue this way.
"If he wants to get active in his community and try to help out kids, then he probably needed to say something. ... He's got to go with what he feels in his heart," Saunders said before his team hosted the Boston Celtics on Monday night.
"In talking to him, I think he understands the seriousness of what he did," Saunders said. "He's trying to let people know -- kids, especially -- that he had done something wrong and try to take what was really a negative and try to somehow have a positive impact."
Arenas, a three-time All-Star, said he had let down his teammates with the Wizards as well as Irene Pollin, the widow of longtime team owner Abe Pollin. Pollin, who changed the team's name from Bullets in 1997 because of D.C.'s violence, died in November.
After Pollin's death, Arenas said he called his father on the West Coast because Pollin "was the father away from California."
Arenas said in his story he wrote a letter to D.C. students last week about owning up to his mistakes and living up to Pollin's expectations.
"I said that I lost sight of the lesson I learned from Abe Pollin about how the responsibility to be a good role model comes along with the opportunity he gave me," Arenas wrote. "I reiterate now the pledge I made to those students: that this is a responsibility I am not going to walk away from, that I will choose more wisely in the future and do my best to help guide children into brighter futures."
Wizards co-captain Antawn Jamison said he believes Arenas.
"I definitely think he's sorry for what happened. I think he's disappointed as far as what took place, how people are viewing him. ... I think now there's a process you have to go through as far as letting people know you made a mistake," Jamison said after Monday's game. "He knew he made a mistake. If he could take it back, he would. He's not the type of guy to do anything vicious like that. He just made poor judgment."
Arenas has long been involved with schools and students in the D.C. area. He donated $100 for every point he scored in each of the Wizards' home games in the 2006-07 season to a different area school.
He wrote that his goal going forward is to work even closer with community programs to help keep kids from the situation he faces.
"I have to earn that respect and work to deserve it each and every day," Arenas wrote.
"Some people may not forgive me for what I've done. 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."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.