This year’s college football season kicked off with one. New Mexico women’s soccer produced another. We see it all too often on SportsCenter, be it from the NCAA, NFL, NBA of MLB. The generic apology. The modern day athlete’s get out of PR jail free card.
It’s almost as if every media relations person for any given team or athletic program reads from the same manual. A player on your squad does something stupid? Have them issue a first-person mea culpa with the following baseline structure: “I (sincerely / whole-heartedly) regret my actions. I (lost my cool / got caught up in the heat of the moment / let my emotions get the best of me), and I apologize to (victim, fans, teammates, organization) for my behavior.”
Even apologies from the coaches appear to be scripted. The remarks usually center on how that behavior is not condoned by the team, how the player is a good person who made a mistake, and how the situation will be addressed directly with the individual, usually internally. For once I would like to see a coach or manager come out and say, “That was stupid and reckless and I don’t want that player on my team. We don’t need fools like that on the field hurting others and impacting our ability to win.”
Instead, we get cookie-cutter responses that come wrapped in a bright yellow box. It’s the same apology and statement you heard last time and will hear again, probably sometime next week.
To be fair, in the cases of Oregon football and New Mexico soccer, the respective schools reacted firmly and decisively. Oregon’s LaGarrette Blount was kicked off the team for punching a Boise State football player following a loss at the beginning of the season. New Mexico’s Elizabeth Lambert was suspended indefinitely for her violent actions against BYU. In contrast, University of Florida’s Urban Meyer gave player Brandon Spikes only a half game suspension after he purposefully and deliberately attempted to gouge the eyes of Georgia’s Waushaun Ealey. Spikes imposed on himself a full game suspension, a move I doubt he would have chosen to make had their upcoming opponent been Alabama rather than Vanderbilt.
Still, the follow-up to all the ‘regrettable’ behavior is a statement made publicly by the players in question and their respective coaches. What is truly unfortunate is these individuals may indeed be sorry for their behavior. They may truly feel remorseful, as well as embarrassed, for how they acted and the results of those actions against another human being. Yet their feelings of contrition are painted over by the broad brush that results from us seeing this all too often, as is the case with this blog.
There is no solution for this problem. Individual players will continue to make individual mistakes. They, in turn, will issue yet another generic apology that will cause us to roll our eyes and think, “Yeah, whatever.” That is what’s truly regrettable.