Sunday, September 2, 2012

How to Leave an Organization With Class: Something RVP Didn't Do, and Should Have Done

RVP sells his soul to the Red Devils
I know that I need to get over the whole Robin van Persie transfer saga but it's been a little over two weeks and I still can't believe how classless he behaved throughout the entire ordeal. It started with his July 4th "statement" on his website that he would not sign a new contract. After that he made no further comments or postings to give fans an update. Instead, he kept his loyal fan base in the dark all summer until August 15th when it was revealed that he had been sold to one of Arsenal's biggest and most hated rivals, Manchester United.

The initial shock is dissipating and acceptance is beginning to sink in. However, I was really hoping that after the dust had settled RVP would do the right thing. I must be naive as I really held out hope that he would attempt to make amends by issuing a statement to the Arsenal fans that had supported him and chanted his name for the past eight years. He had no problem putting out his initial negative statement to ruin many a Gooner's summer; he really owed it to Arsenal FC and its fan base to make some type of statement. Thank you is really something that the fans deserve to hear from RVP. At the very least he should give Arsenal fans an explanation. Instead, his silence has pretty much been interpreted as a big old Go F$@# Yourself.
Truly shocking.

Cleveland fans let Lebron James know how they feel
That got me thinking of some of the many instances where players have left organizations with amazing displays of gratitude to the fans. In fact, in many of these cases the athletes were sent packing by their teams and still thanked the fans. RVP did the opposite and held his club hostage. He certainly wasn't thinking of the fans, the club, his teammates that he was abandoning or the man that made him, Arsene Wenger. The captain of Arsenal had deserted and became a turncoat rather than the leader he was supposed to be. He is to North London what Lebron James is to Cleveland.

Here are some amazing examples of players that moved on with class:

When the Boston Celtics' guard Ray Allen signed with the Miami Heat (the Manchester City of the NBA) he was going to one of the Celtics' main rivals. Allen had been the subject of trade rumors during the season so he was within his rights to look out for his playing future. Regardless, Allen left with class as he placed a full page ad in the Boston Globe thanking the fans,the Celtics and the city of Boston.

Pitcher Ryan Dempster spent close to nine full seasons with the Chicago Cubs before being traded this summer. Before departing town, Dempster purchased a full page ad in the Chicago Tribune thanking the fans, the Cubs organization, his teammates and the city of Chicago.
Two other players that were traded prior to this summer's baseball trading deadline made sure to thank the fans of their respective cities. Philadelphia's Shane Victorino took out an ad in two area newspapers thanking the Philly fans that supported him for eight years before heading to the Dodgers. In Boston first baseman  Adrian Gonzalez found out that he was included in part of a multi player trade that also sent him to LA. On his way out of Boston, Gonzalez took to Twitter to thank the Red Sox faithful for their support.

After 13 seasons as a defensive end with Pittsburgh, Aaron Smith was released by the Steelers. In other words he was told thanks for all and now we're done with you. Smith could have been bitter, but instead he took out an ad in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette issuing one of the classiest thank you letters you'll ever see from a professional athlete. Smith thanked the fans, the Steelers organization, his teammates, coaches and backroom staff and the city of Pittsburgh.

The Columbus Blue Jackets have been perennial losers since becoming a part of the NHL nine years ago. Their captain Rick Nash was a loyal and successful player for the team. Despite loving the town and the club, Nash asked to be traded this past season in order to have the chance to go to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Although asking for a move, Nash had shown his loyalty through all the losing seasons and most fans understood his decision. Nash proved his sincerity with an ad in the Columbus Dispatch. The letter read:
“Dear Blue Jackets Fans,Thank you for the unwavering support you’ve shown me over the past nine seasons.I am so fortunate to have had the chance to call Columbus home and to say proudly I am from the Buckeye state.Thanks for the memories. Thanks for everything.Rick Nash”
In addition to basketball, baseball, American football and hockey, this type of gratitude has also been displayed  in soccer. Recently, US Men's National Team member, Geoff Cameron was signed by the EPL's Stoke City from the Houston Dynamos of MLS. Despite Stoke being one of the less attractive teams in England's top flight, it is still a major step up for Cameron and he would have been foolish to pass it up. Before departing for England, Cameron wrote an open letter to thank the Dynamos and the fans which was published in the Houston Chronicle.       
Geoff Cameron left Houston for Stoke
 and made sure to thank the fans
Closer to home, Arsenal have a number of examples of players leaving with class. Most notably was the departure of Arsenal captain and all-time leading goal scorer Thierry Henry. At the end of the 2006-2007 season Henry transferred to Barcelona. The departure of Chairman David Dein and uncertainty over the future of Arsene Wenger were part of the reason. Another issue was Henry's age. Historically Wenger does not like to sign players over 30 to extensive contracts. There were no demands or bad blood involved in his departure.

Regarding his decision to move on Henry stated, "I always said that if I ever left Arsenal it would be to play for Barcelona". He also added, "Because of my seniority the fact that I was a captain and my habit of screaming for the ball, they would sometimes give it to me even when I was not in the best position. So in that sense it was good for the team that I moved on." His love for the club and the fans was obvious in his last interview for Arsenal:

Not one ounce of class was shown by Van Persie throughout his eventual move. So after spending eight seasons with the club he rooted for as a child, Robin van Persie threw away all the love and adoration that he had garnered with no consideration for anyone but himself. Fans would have been disappointed with his leaving no matter what, but by doing so in such an ungracious manner and with no parting comments Van Persie has become one of the most hated figures in Arsenal history.

Matt Law recently wrote an article for The Mirror entitled Why Van Persie's ill-judged statement will taint his Arsenal legacy forever. In it he states:

"He might just rue the day he gave the okay on the statement that has immediately turned him from hero to villain in the eyes of Arsenal fans. The early indications are Van Persie's eye-popping statement came as a result of growing frustration that Arsenal were not willing to speed up negotiations to sell him. But this was not the way to go about things. If Van Persie really was growing angry, he should have been made to take a deep breath. Play the long game, do not disrespect the club and fans who have stuck by you through all the injuries. And, most of all, do not disrespect the Arsene Wenger – the man who covered for you for over a year. Just who does he think he is to try to dictate transfer policy and strategy to one of the best managers in English football history? Before he became the Premier League's top scorer and the Footballer of the Year, Van Persie was a forward who had made just 111 starts in seven years because of injury. Where was Wenger's statement questioning his fitness record? Where was Arsenal's statement asking whether Van Persie was worth his wages while he sat in the treatment room? Both had far more class." 

That Robin van Persie chose not to leave in a respectful manner and has not addressed it since has sealed his legacy as a despicable greedy and disloyal mercenary.

How to leave with class
How to give thanks

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