February 2008 Ethics Dunces

Paul Lo Duca and Eric Gagne

The Washington Nationals Paul Lo Duca and the Milwaukee Brewers' Eric Gagne, both named as users of prohibited performance-enhancing substances in the Mitchell Report, issued "apologies" to their fans and team mates while declining to say what they were apologizing for. This slimy and cynical tactic, almost certainly invented by player agents who double as lawyers and PR flacks, was tried a couple years earlier by Yankee slugger Jason Giambi, another steroid-user. It served him well until he slipped up in an interview last year and referenced regrets about using "that stuff." Oh, THAT's what you were apologizing for!

Such bogus apologies are the unethical equivalents of trying to have your cake and eat it too. An apology without specifics is no apology at all; it is a cowardly attempt to get forgiveness and sympathy without paying the price and actually admitting wrongdoing, to "move on" without earning it. The retort to this assessment, hinted at by Lo Duca when he was asked what he was apologizing for when he said he made "mistakes" (He answered "Come on, bro!") is that it's obvious what the apology is about, isn't it? It doesn't fly. Sure it's obvious, but that doesn't mean that the issuer of a non-specific apology can't claim later that he was really apologizing for bad hygiene or cheating on his SATs or being mean to his first wife. The point of the non-specific apology is that it avoids potential punishment, in this case, possible suspension by Major League Baseball. It keeps all the options open; if it looks like some consequences are on the way, the vague apology can be defined out of existence. In other words, it avoids accountability and responsibility.

And that means it doesn't work. An apology means that you are sorry and accept the consequences of your misconduct. An apology that avoids the consequences is a ploy, and nothing more.




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