Apologies – the Rights and Wrongs


The apologies from Luis Suarez and Kenny Daglish do what Aidan Burley's apology in the wake of his Nazi-themed party did not; namely accept responsibility

Apologies are tricky things. The admission of being in the wrong, and the facing of the consequences. It’s a humbling thing to have to do, but also a brave thing to do. Unfortunately, it’s much more common to see a weak, non-apology: the “I’m sorry if I caused any offence” line.

This afternoon, Liverpool Football Club have issued a couple of apologies. Having read them through, I’m rather impressed. They seem like full, sincere apologies, which is something of a breath of fresh air. Before I launch into an examination and explanation, I’ll declare a two-fold interest: firstly, I am a Liverpool fan; secondly, I don’t like Luis Suarez. He’s a good player, but ever since his cheating against Ghana in the World Cup, I haven’t cared for him.

Right, now that’s done with… Yesterday, ahead of the Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester United, Suarez refused to shake hands with United player Patrice Evra. There’s history between the two, specifically that Suarez was punished for racially abusing Evra earlier in the season.

Below is the text of Suarez’s apology:

“I have spoken with the Manager since the game at Old Trafford and I realise I got things wrong. I’ve not only let him down, but also the Club and what it stands for and I’m sorry. I made a mistake and I regret what happened. I should have shaken Patrice Evra’s hand before the game and I want to apologise for my actions. I would like to put this whole issue behind me and concentrate on playing football.”

Note what Suarez says here. He identifies (correctly) what he did wrong, states what he should have done, and apologises for not doing that. He doesn’t apologise for the offence that people took at his actions, because it was the actions themselves that were wrong.

Kenny Daglish, Liverpool’s manager, has also apologised for his horribly misjudged defence of Suarez in a post-match interview:

“When I went on TV after yesterday’s game I hadn’t seen what had happened, but I did not conduct myself in a way befitting of a Liverpool manager during that interview and I’d like to apologise for that.”

Again, Kenny does the same thing. He identifies what he did wrong, and apologises for it. Neither man makes mention of the people who were offended, because to do so would shift the blame onto them, when it was the player and manager who were in the wrong.

For a bit of a comparison, take a look at this “apology” from Conservative MP Aidan Burley after he was revealed to have attended an extremely offensive Nazi-themed stag party, where attendees dressed up in SS uniforms and made toasts to the Third Reich:

“Deeply regret inappropriate behaviour by some guests at stag party I attended and I am extremely sorry for any offence that was caused.”

(Again, with the interest declaring: I am a Labour Party member and activist, and I am not at all a fan of Mr Burley)

Now, leaving aside for the moment that Burley’s version of events later turned out to be false, this is a textbook example of the “non-apology” I mentioned above. Look at what he’s apologising for: “any offence that was caused”. He’s not apologising for attending the party, for not stopping his fellow party-goers when their behaviour became unacceptable, or leaving when it did. He apologises that people were offended by his actions. He doesn’t believe that he did anything wrong, but he’s sorry that you do.

Yesterday I was ashamed of my football club. Today I am not. Kenny Daglish and Luis Suarez, whatever you may think of them or of Liverpool, have accepted that they were in the wrong, accepted responsibility, and have apologised for what they did. This doesn’t make everything magically okay, but it’s a first step.

If this sort of humility were replicated across our society, we could only be better for it.

2 comments

  1. Isn’t this a case of politicians never using one word when they can use several? Apologising for “any offence caused” is standard for them all – see Diane Abbot for another example 😉 Agree though, it would so refreshing if they could just say sorry!

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    1. Oh, it’s definitely something that politicians of all flavours are guilty of. I used Burley as an example as a) it was high profile; b) I’m pretty familiar with the case; and c) Twitter tends to be muddier waters.

      The thing is that most of the public would, I think, be willing to forgive a politician who put their hands up and apologised simply and sincerely when they made a mistake. After all, we all do make mistakes.

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