Sorry, but apologies matter
Reading through numerous articles on NY Yankee Alex Rodriguez’s most recent public apology for doping — almost required before his return to the field — it’s hard not to feel like people are forgetting what a real apology looks like. Too many seem impressed by his handwritten statement to his fans, blind to the fact that his “apology” was anything but.
First of all, an apology shouldn’t be viewed as an opportunity to present excuses. For instance, disgraced LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling “apologized” for racist remarks he made on tape to a former girlfriend by telling CNN’s Anderson Cooper that he was baited into it: “I don’t know why the girl had me say those things.” Kanye West once blogged this “apology” after he kept fans waiting for two hours for a concert: “I am sick of negative people who just sit around trying 2 plot my downfall ... I’M SORRY ... SOMETIMES I GO 2, 3 DAYS W/O SLEEP WORKING ON MY PERFORMANCE ... I HAVE TO ICE MY KNEES AFTER EVERY SHOW ... HAVING AN EXPENSIVE STAGE CUTS MY PAYDAY IN HALF ... ” Kanye’s apology seems more like a request for his fans to apologize to him.
A sincere apology involves more than a mere admission of wrongdoing. A-Rod took a page from Kanye’s blog in his most recent “apology”: “I accept the fact that many of you will not believe my apology or anything that I say at this point.” Thanks for reminding us of the obvious, Alex.
By the same token, simply expressing regret accomplishes little. It keeps the focus on the feelings of the wrongdoer rather than on those wronged. For instance, Lululemon CEO Chip Wilson “apologized” for stupid remarks (that structural flaws in his company’s yoga pants were due to the body shapes of the women wearing them), by pointing out how sad he was that the complaints of those same women were negatively affecting his employees. Last year, former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford “apologized” for yet another alcohol-fueled rant caught on video: “I just wanted to come out and tell you I saw a video. It’s extremely embarrassing. The whole world’s going to see it ... it’s extremely embarrassing. I don’t know what to say. Again, again and again, I’m apologizing.”
No, Mr. Ford, that’s not apologizing. That’s merely admitting what everyone already knew: That you’re an embarrassment.
A real apology should include an explanation of why the initial act was wrong and an acknowledgment of how it hurt others. We saw an example last week, when Seton Hall’s Sterling Gibbs immediately wrote a series of tweets apologizing for hitting Villanova’s Ryan Arcidiacono during a basketball game. Among them: “Man that’s not who I am. I’m sorry to my family, friends, fans, and team for being an embarrassment. Even more sorry to @RyArch15. I let my emotions get the best of me and that wasn’t acceptable at all. I hope you’re all right and I will face any consequences coming. Sorry again @RyArch15, it really is weighing heavy on my heart.” By contrast, A-Rod waited until the last possible moment before spring training to release his handwritten Media Culpa despite having an entire year to do so.
A sincere apology doesn’t stop at admitting, regretting, and explaining. To truly apologize, one must do everything in one’s power to make it right. As much as we might want apologies, they’re hollow when unaccompanied by attempts at restitution. Lance Armstrong’s 2013 interview with Oprah Winfrey featured a disastrous “apology” in which he failed to address the many innocent (and honest) people he’d smeared and sued for telling the truth about him as he lied.
A-Rod’s most recent “apology” reveals how much he believes in Lance’s never-look-back philosophy: “The Commissioner has said the matter is over. The Players Association has said the same. The Yankees have said the next step is to play baseball. I’m ready to put this chapter behind me and play some ball.” In other words, all is already forgiven, so there’s no need to discuss the many, many people I’ve branded as liars and cheats in my attempts to cover my tracks. After all, I’m going to collect $61 million over the next three years, thereby directly benefiting from the illicit drugs for which I’m currently “apologizing.” He makes no mention of donating any of this money he obtained through cheating to fund the anti-drug initiatives for kids he’d promised to create after he was caught doping in 2009.
Thankfully, A-Rod closed his latest “apology” with some hopeful signs that he’s learned how to do so sincerely: “I’m here to take my medicine… I think this is a tremendous opportunity for me to look in the mirror and be a better teammate to my guys over there. Be a better player to my fans, a better human being... But I think the only thing I ask from this group today and the American people is to judge me from this day forward.”
Oh, wait — that was the end of his 2009 “apology,” the one he gave at the start of spring training after the first time he got caught doping. Nowhere in either of his “apologies” does he admit taking performance-enhancing drugs — he only did that when faced with federal prosecutors. Mr. Rodriguez doesn’t understand that when one doesn’t mention the reason one is apologizing, one isn’t actually apologizing.
A-Rod can write about “taking full responsibility” all he wants.
Sorry, but I don’t buy it.
You can read more at RobertFWalsh.net and contact him at rob@RobertFWalsh.net or follow him on Twitter @RobertFWalsh.