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Apologize? Who me?

You decide which apologist gets it right. One said, “Yes, I regret it. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said I hate gay people…” The other said, “I’m ready to bear all responsibility for what happened. You can’t hurt me any worse than I am right now.” The first apology came from Tim Hardaway, a former NBA All-Star who told a sport talk radio show host that he never would wanted to have played with a gay player because such a player could not be trusted. A gay player “should not be in the locker room while we [straight players] are in the locker room.”

You decide which apologist gets it right.

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One said, “Yes, I regret it. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said I hate gay people…”

The other said, “I’m ready to bear all responsibility for what happened. You can’t hurt me any worse than I am right now.”

The first apology came from Tim Hardaway, a former NBA All-Star who told a sport talk radio show host that he never would wanted to have played with a gay player because such a player could not be trusted. A gay player “should not be in the locker room while we [straight players] are in the locker room.”

The second apology came from NASCAR driver, Michael Waltrip, assuming responsibility for his race team using a jet-fuel derived additive during qualification for the 2007 Daytona 500. Altered fuels are banned and considered verboten. Waltrip’s team was caught cheating by race officials, and his crew chief was suspended for an indefinite period.

So who was the most sincere?

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Ironically the person who uttered the most hateful comment made the least apologetic comment. But it would seem obvious; people who have hate in their hearts rarely convert overnight. NASCAR teams are known for more than occasionally bending the rules when it comes to racing; in fact five other drivers were caught cheating this year’s Daytona 500. Still cheating on the track must rank as a lesser evil than impugning the human dignity of others.

Apologies are a good thing, but too often public apologies seem scripted to reflect better on the transgressor than on person or persons who have been wronged. Therefore, such apologies lose their original purpose — to express sorrow for a wrongful act.

That said, here are some rules for making an apology.

Be sincere. You gotta mean what you say or it simply does not resonate. Hardaway’s comments were made in the wake of a public declaration and book by John Amaechi, a former NBA journeyman player, that he was gay. Hardaway’s gay-bashing comments were made matter-of-factly, as if everyone he knows feels the same way. Sadly, that may be true of some NBA players. On the other hand, Waltrip was genuinely torn up by his cheating. He mentioned that his daughter had asked him point blank why he had cheated. It was one query he found too painful to answer. [Source: Associated Press ]

Admit what you did was wrong. Hardaway gave a pro forma response. He took no responsibility for hate speech; he seemed more sorry for getting himself in hot water than for his awful comments. By contrast, Waltrip shouldered the blame. While the actions were taken by others, he made no excuses. In fact, he went out of his way to accept the consequences. “You can’t be skeptical of Toyota (his race car manufacturer). You have to look straight at me.”

Accept the consequences. Waltrip has lost his crew chief for an indefinite period and was penalized with a loss of race points in the overall standings for the NASCAR Cup. He also was forced to give up his lead race car and race with a back-up model. Hardaway was dis-invited by the NBA to the annual All-Star game and banned until further notice from future NBA activities.

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Make it right. Waltrip has vowed to avoid cheating in the future. Hardaway has admitted he was in error. The proof will be in the action. If either Waltrip or Hardaway crosses the line again, we will know they were only pulling one over on us.

But you have to give Waltrip and Hardaway credit for one thing: neither has checked himself into rehab. That has been the de rigueur escape for everyone from congressmen to celebs who have transgressed society’s boundaries. In doing so those folks sought excuses for their actions by claiming they were in the clutches of drugs or booze. At the very least Waltrip and Hardaway owned up to their missteps, and that’s certainly a step in the right direction.

[Note: Hardaway and Waltrip quotes gathered from Associated Press
stories carried by CNN/SI.com on 2.15.07]

[The author would like to thank author john@johnbaldoni.com www.johnbaldoni.com

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