Thursday, January 31, 2013

Failing the Authenticity Test

This article also appears in

Words Aren’t Enough For an Apology
You might have heard or read the repulsive comments made this week by San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver about gay players in professional football. In a radio interview he said, “I don't do the gay guys man. No, we don't got no gay people on the team, they gotta get up out of here if they do. Can't be with that sweet stuff. Nah…can't be…in the locker room man. Nah.”

The 49ers released a statement the following day: “The San Francisco 49ers reject the comments that were made [Tuesday], and have addressed the matter with Chris. There is no place for discrimination within our organization at any level. We have and always will proudly support the LGBT community.”

And Chris Culliver issued his own statement: “The derogatory comments I made yesterday were a reflection of thoughts in my head, but they are not how I feel. It has taken me seeing them in print to realize that they are hurtful and ugly. Those discriminating feelings are truly not in my heart. Further, I apologize to those who I have hurt and offended, and I pledge to learn and grow from this experience.”

Good. There was a quick response and Cullilver’s apology showed real regret.

Or did it? Compare the language and grammar used in the interview to what’s in the statement. Does anyone really think that Culliver wrote that apology? I don’t believe the 49ers PR team did Culliver a favor by putting (what looks like to me) an obviously phony statement into his hands. Of course, the PR people should have provided some guidance and assistance but (assuming they were involved) they stripped the effort of its intended benefit by removing all elements of authenticity. I can’t imagine that his fans or the gay community felt that Culliver was truly chastened or changed by the incident.

Some takeaways:

·       The anti-gay comments were made on the radio. In addition to releasing a statement, go back on the show and apologize.

·       If you’re going to write an apology for someone, at least do it in their “voice.”

·       Acting quickly is not enough. Without an authentic expression of remorse, the effort may actually deepen and prolong the negative attention.

Between blog posts I invite you to follow me on Twitter @pauloestreicher.

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