An all-pro of awful press conferences

Illustration by Kagan McLeod

Ray Rice’s “apology” sets the standard for athletes failing to acknowledge their mistakes

At Sportsnet, we acknowledge all kinds of notable achievements by athletes. So it would be wrong to ignore the performance of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, who in a span of a few short minutes managed to do something heretofore thought impossible: He ticked off all six boxes on the “Did Your ‘Apology’ Press Conference Actually Make Things Much Worse For You?” checklist.

How bad was it? To self-inflict more damage to his reputation than Rice managed in just six minutes, LeBron James would have to make the next instalment of The Decision a 13-part series that ends with him deciding to sign with the Leafs.

Some background: We last saw Rice on videotape in February, emerging from the elevator of an Atlantic City casino, dragging the prone body of his then-fiancée (now wife), Janay Palmer. Rice’s lawyer described it as a “very minor physical altercation.” The police report described it as Rice “striking [Janay] with his hand, rendering her unconscious.”

To the checklist:

1. Take responsibility for your actions without taking any responsibility for your actions. Check! Rice referred to the allegation he knocked out Janay as “this thing that happened between me and my wife” and “this situation that me and my wife were in.” Ladies and gentlemen, I am here to take full responsibility for actions that I lack the courage and character even to describe. Anyway, you can see where Rice is going with this. He wants us to focus on the real villain here: situations. Stupid situations are always causing trouble with their various circumstances and elements! AND DON’T EVEN GET HIM STARTED ON SCENARIOS.

2. Apologize to everyone except the victim. Check! Rice apologized to the owner of the Ravens, and to the team’s GM, and to his coach, and to his fans, and “the kids,” and “everyone who was affected” by the incident. (Technically, I suppose that includes his wife in that she was pretty much 100 percent of the “everyone.”)

3. Offer at least one inappropriate exhibition of genuine remorse. Check! Rice did take “full responsibility” for the fact that some corporations no longer want to sponsor him. “That’s my fault,” he said. “That’s my fault.” He seemed legitimately upset. Meanwhile, his wife sat next to him with a look that started as “deer in the headlights” and evolved to “deer in disbelief that her husband hadn’t apologized for hitting her but is now getting emotional over BodyArmor SuperDrink.”

4. Include one random sentence that makes us think less of humanity. Check! “I just want to thank all my supporters for the very kind notes.” Dear Ray, just writing to offer my support during this trying time of having punched out a woman. Sincerely, Every Terrible Person in the World.

5. Hire an awful lawyer. Check! Rice’s lawyer gave an interview in which he described, “hypothetically,” what happened in the elevator. The lawyer said that, hypothetically speaking, Rice was hypothetically getting hit by his fiancée and then hypothetically “fired one back and hit harder.” “Fired one back” is an interesting choice of words. It’s not particularly flattering to his client. And it doesn’t sound super lawyerly, does it? Bet that in court there’s a good chance this guy eschews the traditional “Objection!” in favour of an air horn.

6. Make a highly inappropriate comment that is meant to showcase your resilience but actually just reminds everyone that you allegedly punched your wife in the face. CHECK! “Failure is not getting knocked down,” Rice actually said. “It’s not getting up.” Do you think there’s any chance Rice eventually figured out why this was a poor choice of words? And if so, how long did it take him to blame the “situation” for him having to talk in the first place?

This story originally appeared in Sportsnet magazine. Subscribe here.

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