The Apology Everyone Uses (And That May Not Work)

Professional Golfers Association (PGA) President Ted Bishop was forced out of his job late last week after posting comments to his social media accounts that many people found sexist. On Facebook, he wrote the following to criticize a golfer:

“Used to be athletes who had lesser records or accomplishments in a sport never criticized the icons. Tom Watson (8 majors and a 10-3-1 Ryder Cup record) and Nick Faldo (6 majors and all-time Ryder Cup points leader) get bashed by Ian James Poulter. Really? Sounds like a little school girl squealing during recess.”

He also tweeted the following:

Ted Bishop Tweet

As career-ending tweets go, that one might seem mild. But it’s important to place it into the larger context of women in golf, an exclusionary history the PGA has long been trying to improve upon.

Mr. Bishop, like many others in his situation, defended his record on women’s issues, arguing that his words weren’t representative of his true views (here’s his interview and apology on The Golf Channel). I’ve written before about that fashionable but increasingly non-credible apology—and questioned whether it can be possible for a person to refer derisively to men as “little school girls” without harboring at least some disrespect for girls.

That canned apology has become such a cliché that fictional television character Selena Meyer—who plays the Vice President of the United States on HBO’s Veep—has recorded this spot-on parody of it:

If an apology has become so hackneyed that it’s the stuff of parody, it’s probably a sign that it’s no longer as effective as it once was. That said, it still may be the best of a set of lousy options for many people in crisis—and, depending on the context, it may still work for some people. But they shouldn’t expect this type of apology to be a panacea that erases their statements and leads to immediate forgiveness.

Thanks to reader John Kelley for sending me the “Veep” video.

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