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Gilbert Arenas Is Unpopular Nationally, But Is He Unpopular Locally?

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We figured Gilbert Arenas wasn't exactly the most popular guy in the world nationally. Few opposing teams' fans are going to have much sympathy to a guy like him after what he pulled last season. Now, there's some proof.

Forbes polled a bunch of people to ask them who were the most disliked figures in sports, and Arenas comes in tenth place with a 44-percent "dislike" rate. He's the only local player on the list, which is headed by Michael Vick and includes Tiger Woods and Ben Roethlisberger. Forbes explains their methodology as follows:

To measure public opinion of sports figures, E-Poll surveyed 1,100 people nationwide, aged 13 or older. Forbes limited eligibility to those currently active in sports as a player, coach, manager, broadcaster, agent or owner. A 10% minimum awareness level was also a prerequisite (that eliminated drug-using cyclist Floyd Landis and money-grubbing baseball agent Scott Boros [sic.], both very much disliked by the few but anonymous to the many).    

I won't critique the methodology here, because I don't really have a better way to make this list. But I will say this - while Arenas is certainly unpopular nationally, locally, it's way more complicated.

I've written at length about this before, so apologies for continuing, but I don't think it's fair to say Arenas is universally hated here in D.C. Is opinion divided on him? Absolutely. But there are too many people who have his back in this region to say he's universally hated locally.

As Ken wrote in his Top Five Most Popular Athletes post:

Yes, the gun incident knocked him down a notch in pretty much every way imaginable. His injury and mega-contract have also negatively impacted his current perception. To me, though, Gilbert has the potential to be one of those "redemption" kind of stories this upcoming season. As reprehensible as his actions were, I think it's fair to suggest they fall below the level of some of the more heinous things professional athletes have been guilty of in recent years. The opportunity for Gilbert to come back in 2010 and be a leader not only on the floor but in the community is one I believe he will embrace.    

The irony is that Arenas is already a leader in the community, as evidenced by the 70+ plus attached to his defense memo. So clearly, by any measure, Arenas has retained some supporters here in D.C. I realize that doesn't really matter in a national poll, so I'm not going to argue with this Forbes "study."

I will say this, though: Arenas' situation is just one of many in sports that prove popular opinion nationally is often not the same as popular opinion locally. (Incidentally, another good example of this is Allen Iverson, who I'd guess is still incredibly popular in Philadelphia despite finishing just ahead of Arenas on this list). I think it's safe to say that the most disliked sports figures locally here are Dan Snyder and Albert Haynesworth, not Arenas. Sure, neither of those guys have done anything that captured nearly as much negative national attention as Arenas' gun play. It makes sense that they aren't on Forbes' list. But they've also been the principle people causing embarrassment to the region's flagship franchise. That makes them the biggest villains around here instead of Arenas.

I'm rambling now, so I'll stop. Just some food for thought as we think about the Forbes list.