Empty apologies: sometimes ‘sorry’ just doesn’t cover it

Nicolas Garton, Sports editor

So many public figures and athletes are caught in scandals or criminal activities that it all starts to become white noise. I don’t pretend to care about most of them. I find tabloid news and the TMZ culture to be disgusting.

But this summer has been different. We have seen prominent athletes engage in horrendous deception, racial discrimination and even be accused of murder. While each situation is different there is one thing that remains consistent through it all: a drumbeat of empty apologies. Lately, being sorry seems to be more of a passing fad than an act of contrition. Am I the only one who thinks this summer’s apology tour has felt like putting a bandage on a gunshot wound?

“I’ve Made Mistakes:” The Ryan Braun Saga
Like many fans I remember where I was standing during Ryan Braun’s winter of 2012 national address. He stood red faced in front of a camera as he insisted on his innocence amidst P.E.D. allegations. He told us that he was innocent because he is not the type of person who would cheat. He clung to the concept that the use of performance enhancing drugs was beneath his dignity as a human being. He said he would bet his life on it. He dragged Major League Baseball and the poor urine sample collector through the mud. He lied to us, to investigators, to the media, to the commissioner, to Aaron Rodgers, to his family and to his teammates.

Braun was finally caught this year when MLB presented an overwhelming case of evidence against him. When it was all over and there were no more lies to tell or people to blame, Braun took the lowest road possible. He said no one is perfect. He said everyone makes mistakes. That was his apology after all the sleazy things he did. Even now he can’t take responsibility for his actions. He is still pointing a finger at everybody else.

Embarrassed and Ashamed: Riley Cooper Runs for Cover
Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper recently asked the NFL for extra security, which would be hilarious if his history with security personnel wasn’t so serious. At a recent Kenny Chesney concert Cooper was videotaped having an altercation with a black security guard. He was caught on tape directing a racial slur at that man and saying he would “fight every n—– in this place.”

Later, Cooper offered a statement saying he was embarrassed and ashamed of his conduct, and that he would seek professional help.

Cooper wound up doing four days of deep introspective healing with a professional before returning to Eagles’ practice ready to collect a hefty paycheck.

The NFL stunned many by not suspending Cooper for the entire season. The Eagles, for their part, simply fined him and excused  him from a few practices.

This apparent slap on the wrist comes in the wake of George Zimmerman’s acquittal for killing a black teenager. It has many people worried that we are living in an era of racial regression instead of racial pregress.

While Cooper’s apology seemed massively more heartfelt than Braun’s, it is still appalling. “Sorry” doesn’t cover the words he spewed or the dark heart they came out of.

People were hurt and victimized by these men’s actions. An apology seems empty. Mistakes were not made. These were knowing, deliberate, disgusting acts.

A mistake is when you turn left when you meant to turn right. Lying to everyone and making racist remarks aren’t mistakes. They are intentional and they are an exact representation of the character of the people doing it.
Saying you’re sorry should only be the tip of the iceberg when taking responsibility. It should be the beginning of accepting consequences for one’s actions and not the means by which one avoids them.

Plenty of us have had to fess up and own up to our actions. We have had to live through an ordeal of consequences for those actions and then figure out how to be better people in the aftermath of it all. Why shouldn’t these guys?