Apology Nation

I have had it with apologies. In the past week I’ve received apologies from Donald Sterling for making racist remarks, and from several NFL players who spoke out against openly gay NFL draft pick Michael Sam. None of the apologies were given to me personally, but I had to read about them in the news, and in my opinion that’s enough for me to be annoyed by them.

When did we decide that celebrities have to go on TV or on Twitter to apologize for speaking their minds? Sterling’s apology sounded contrite and confirmed that he’s little more than a bitter and sad old man, but his comments about Black people were genuine. I believe that he regrets making them, but I also have little doubt that they reflect how he really feels. So why is he apologizing? And even more important, why the hell is he apologizing to the general public? He probably owes an apology to Magic Johnson in particular and to Black people in general, but making a blanket apology to anyone who heard you say what you really think just seems hallow.

The same goes for NFL players who criticized Sam for kissing his boyfriend on national TV. What those guys said is offensive and makes them look bad, but that’s fine because they were being honest. What is there to apologize for? They said what they thought. They must have known it would offend people, so why apologize now that it has? (I should note that I’m being rhetorical, I’m not naïve and I completely understand that for the most part these were completely insincere forced apologies).

We’ve come to the point where public figures get raked over the coals for anything marginally offensive that they say publicly (or, in Sterling’s case, even privately). It’s a little much at times, but it’s the price that people pay for being influential enough to be listened to in the first place. As a society, we need to develop a general policy that no one gets to apologize for saying what they mean. People are judged for what they say, and that’s totally fair. No take-backs.

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