From my January 1 article at WorldMag.com:
Markieff Morris doesn’t need my forgiveness for throwing a towel at his head coach, Jeff Hornacek, yet he apologized to me and the rest of Twitter for just that. Morris, a forward for the Phoenix Suns, was angry after being benched in a recent game. The team rightfully suspended him for two games and demanded he apologize to his teammates and coaches before rejoining them. What struck me was Morris’ public apology via Twitter.
Public apologies are the norm now when athletes lose their cool. A groundswell of pressure generated through the press and social media demand them to say they’re sorry and pacify to the masses. But this undermines what an apology is.
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Apologies are for righting wrongs between individuals or groups, for the wrongdoer to admit fault and ask forgiveness. In the case of Rajon Rondo, a volatile point guard for the Sacramento Kings, that meant a public apology did become necessary. During a game on Dec. 3, Rondo used highly offensive slurs directed at gay referee Bill Kennedy. At the time it wasn’t publicly clear what was said, but after the league suspended Rondo the news came out. Rondo issued two apologies, one rather flat, another more pointed, because the repercussions of his actions were harmful to a larger group.
The public cannot, however, always get the apology it wants. Cleveland Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins took the field before last Sunday’s game wearing a shirt calling for justice for Tamir Rice and John Crawford III, both shot by the police in the state of Ohio in highly disputed cases. Many police officers and members of police unions were outraged and demanded an apology that Hawkins eloquently, respectfully, and emotionally refused to offer. They wanted an apology because they saw his actions as disrespectful. Hawkins was not cowed and stood by his convictions. He didn’t owe anyone an apology because he had avoided the kind of language or attitude that demean others. He simply took a stand.
In the end, all this apologizing and demanding has undermined “I’m sorry.” In too many cases the coerced apology sounds like a grumpy sibling muttering “I’m sorry your face ran into my fist” to another sibling. The public recognizes the disingenuousness and cries “not good enough!” even though we got what we asked for.
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We love outrage and offense. We love to think someone is indebted to us, to hold our social cred over others’ heads. What arrogance. We can want apologies from those who attack or hurt us personally, but maybe, just maybe, we owe an “I’m sorry” to those athletes from whom we have demanded the same.