Kudos to Major League Baseball for suspending Brewers star Ryan Braun for the rest of the season for violating the league’s collectively bargained drug policy. If only Braun, who has defiantly asserted his innocence for the past 17 months, had done as well in his public apology.
Here is Braun’s statement, which was included in MLB’s suspension announcement:
"As I have acknowledged in the past, I am not perfect. I realize now that I have made some mistakes. I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions. This situation has taken a toll on me and my entire family, and it is has been a distraction to my teammates and the Brewers organization.
“I am very grateful for the support I have received from players, ownership and the fans in Milwaukee and around the country. Finally, I wish to apologize to anyone I may have disappointed — all of the baseball fans especially those in Milwaukee, the great Brewers organization, and my teammates. I am glad to have this matter behind me once and for all, and I cannot wait to get back to the game I love."
Braun missed the mark in several ways – and as a result, despite his assertion to the contrary, this matter is not behind him “once and for all.” In her book, “Corporate Reputation,” Leslie Gaines-Ross of Weber Shandwick, spells out the five elements of the perfect apology:
- Quickly acknowledge your mistake
- Take responsibility
- Express regret
- Provide assurance it won’t happen again
- Follow up with action
Braun batted 1-for-5 at best. Not only did he fail to quickly acknowledge his mistake, in a February 2012 press conference, he called himself a “victim” and said, "If I had done this intentionally or unintentionally, I'd be the first one to step up and say, 'I did it' ...I truly believe in my heart and I would bet my life that this substance never entered my body at any point." No wonder a post-announcement Google News search for “Ryan Braun liar” turned up more than 3300 results.
I suppose he took responsibility, but only deserves partial credit since he was completely non-specific, saying, “I realize now that I have made some mistakes.”
We’ll give him another half-point for expressing regret, but he violated two cardinal rules of public apologies - first by watering down an already weak effort by apologizing to those he "may have" disappointed and then by saying, “this situation has taken a toll on me and my family.” Those ineffective attempts to generate sympathy (see Paula Deen) are usually overwhelmed by the obvious reaction: You did this to yourself!
He completely whiffed when it comes to the two action steps – providing assurance it won’t happen again (Ozzie Guillen saying he won’t talk about politics anymore, for example) and then following up with action (think Michael Vick aligning with the SPCA).
The prediction here is that Braun will have to take another swing at this in spring training before the fans and media let him move on.
The old adage in Washington: Tell it first, tell it all and tell it yourself is the best way to get the apology right the first time and truly begin to put a bad episode in the rear view mirror.