Topic: Sports & Entertainment

Ethics Quiz: A Whatsis from Roger Clemens

Question: What exactly is this public statement, made on behalf of former star pitcher Roger Clemens?

“I know that many people want to know what I have to say about the recent articles in the media. Even though these articles contain many false accusations and mistakes, I need to say that I have made mistakes in my personal life for which I am sorry. I have apologized to my family and apologize to my fans. Like everyone, I have flaws. I have sometimes made choices which have not been right.”

Answer: It is demonstration of cowardice and deception, framed in the form of an apology, which it emphatically is not.

The Scoreboard has visited the matter of non-specific apologies before, and with special reference to some of Mr. Clemens’ colleagues in Major League Baseball, who have attempted to get the benefit of apologizing for conduct that they refuse to admit to. These are all fake apologies, cynical attempts to receive the good will and generosity that should follow genuine confessions and expressions of regret without actually doing anything to earn it. In the case of most of these faux appeals for forgiveness, it was at least clear what the unspoken offense was, making it obvious that the missing virtues were courage, candor and accountability. In Clemens’ case, however, he gave no clue as to what his “apology” referred. Later in his statement, he explicitly denied the two primary transgressions he has been accused of lately: having an extra-marital affair with a teenager, and using illegal and banned steroids.

So again we must ask: what the heck IS this?

Clemens apparently believes that apologies are like coupons: you just issue them and people use them whenever they feel like it for whatever they want. Clemens is apologizing for “mistakes he has made.” The problem is that we can’t possibly “forgive” Roger without knowing what we’re supposed to be forgiving him for. It is like the 10 year-old who says he has something to confess but wants you to “promise not to be mad” before he explains what he did. You can’t make that promise, because if he comes out with, “Well, I set the house on fire smoking pot,” “I sent Grandpa down the stairs in his wheelchair as a joke and he’s dead now,” or “I hacked into NORAD and started World War III,” you are going to be mad, and should be, promise or not. And who knows what Clemens wants us to forgive him for? If it’s something he thinks we are likely to forgive, why can’t he say what it is? His “apology” is pretending to say something meaningful without doing it, acting contrite without being contrite, talking the talk but not walking the walk….not even crawling the walk, in fact.

It is posturing for fools, the gullible, the kind and the innocent, seeking something for nothing. This statement is like a con man arguing for a blank check, except the blank check is forgiveness. How disrespectful of people who are forgiving, and the impulse of forgiveness itself. Let’s do this, Roger: since your apology is only words and trickery without a misdeed to attach it to, let’s attach it to the cowardly and dishonest act of the fake apology itself. Which, of course, we can’t accept.


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