As an uncredited professional analyst of apologies, I often write here about apologies that public figures tend to make, many of which fall short. Every once in a while though someone gets it right. And the deserve notice -- not just for having done it right, but to put on the table what a good apology is. This is someone who got it right.
It was sent to me by my co-chair in apologology, Nell Minow, who also keeps a sharp eye out for such things.
It's worth noting that the apologist in question is not a public figure. Perhaps that's why making such an open and heartfelt statement of apology wasn't problematic for him, not having a public persona to defend. But I've seen some very fine apologies from public figures, so at least we know it can be done.
In this case, the background is that a college student participated in rolling out a big banner on ESPN's football GameDay. and of all the participants, he was the one who could be seen clearly. The banner was intended to be in support of his college, Oklahoma State University, and trashed their opponents that week, the Florida State Seminoles. Unfortunately, the banner used a phrase that has powerful meaning to Native Americans, "Trail of Tears." Not only was it (and he) on national television, but the young posted a photo of it on his Twitter account. The result that he took a huge amount of public scorn.
What he did though was step up and apologize. Something I would think is unexpected for a college student of any era. And it didn't toss off an "If I offended anyone..." -- it was an apology. He deserves an A+.
This is how you apologize. Public figures take note.
"My name is Austin Buchanan. I am a junior at Oklahoma State University, having transferred last spring. Today was my first football game as an OSU Cowboy, so I am obviously new to OSU's game-day traditions. In my zeal to support the OSU Cowboys in their season opener against the Florida State Seminoles in Dallas today, my friends and I made a banner. I appeared in a picture with that banner, which I shared via my Twitter account. Included on our banner was a hashtag insensitively referencing the Trail of Tears. The Twitter post and picture were retweeted and shared by many, eventually going viral.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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