LeBron James makes a phantom apology for breaking hearts in Cleveland

Basketball superstar LeBron James broke new ground last week with an original kind of non-apology. Let’s call it a phantom apology, apologizing for a non-offense instead of for the real offense.

James left the Cleveland Cavaliers after last season to join two other superstars on the Miami Heat. No problem with that: he was a free agent. But he did it in a particularly ugly way that was gratuitously hurtful to his fans in Cleveland. The hurt damaged his image with fans everywhere.

Last Wednesday James led his new team to a victory in the quarter-final series of the playoffs over the Boston Celtics, the team that had knocked out his old team (the Cavaliers) last year. In the flush of victory he tried to repair his image. But a real apology would have admitted he did wrong. So James came up with the phantom apology.

Instead of apologizing for the ugly hurt he had caused, he semi-apologized for jumping to Miami—an act that was entirely honorable and ethical. Semi-, because he went on to explain that his move was a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to get past the Celtics and compete for the championship, His entire statement is here.

So James gets credit for apologizing without accepting blame for what he did.

But no credit from EthicsBob: that’s not a real apology.

A real apology is “I did (so-and-so) wrong thing and I’m sorry.”

A good example of a real apology is  Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s from last year. The day after unleashing a barrage of n-words at a person who called into her radio show for advice, Dr. Laura said,

“I did the wrong thing. I didn’t intend to hurt people, but I did. And that makes it the wrong thing to have done… I am very sorry.  And it just won’t happen again.”

Her complete statement is here.

Sadly most public figures avoid real apologies. They’re defiant (“I’m sorry if you think I did something wrong.”), or evasive (“I may have made an innocent mistake, and I’m sorry for it—if I actually did it.”) Now, thanks to James, we know a third category of non-apology.


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2 Responses to “LeBron James makes a phantom apology for breaking hearts in Cleveland”

  1. footballnutz17 Says:

    Sir, I completely agree. I did not like the way LeBron left Cleveland. His fans deserved better then that.

    Weird way of apologizing, don’t you think?

  2. Ethics Bob Says:

    Yes, I think he wanted the good opinions of sports fans that would have followed an apology, without admitting that he’d done something wrong.

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