Commentary

The most memorable sports apologies

Originally Published: February 18, 2010
By Mike Philbrick | Page 2

Sports figures apologize all the time.

They apologize for losing and for not giving 110 percent. But let's be honest, no one cares about that stuff. What we want is the scandal, the inappropriate comment and the juicy details. We also want closure. We want the apology, and you can't have one without the other.

Tiger Woods hopes apologizing for his personal indiscretions is the first step toward closure in the ugliest episode of his public life.

But before we rigorously overanalyze Woods' performance, Page 2 compiles the 25 most memorable apologies in sports history:

UPDATE: We selected our top 25 before Tiger Woods issued his statement, but it's only fitting that we now include Eldrick as a bonus apology. After all, he said he isn't above everyone else's rules.

Tiger Woods

The 411: We assume you haven't been living under a rock. Moving on …

The Apology: You can read his entire statement here but his message essentially was this: "I want to say to each of you, simply and directly, I am deeply sorry for my irresponsible and selfish behavior I engaged in."

The Aftermath: With Tiger apparently expecting to be away from golf for many more weekends, the economy will likely collapse and the average PGA Tour purse will bottom out at $12.50 (give or take 35 cents). Finally, Steve Stricker will become the Hakeem Olajuwon of golf, stepping to the forefront of the sport now that the best player on the planet is out of the way.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled list …


25. Scot Pollard

The 411: During a timeout in a Cleveland-Indiana game in March 2007, the Cavs center looked into a camera and said, "Hey kids, do drugs."

The Apology: Pollard: "It was a bad joke. That's all it boils down to. There are a number of things people could say about it, but it just turned out it was a bad joke. Obviously, I don't believe that."

The Aftermath: The Cavs did not re-sign Pollard after the '07 season, and he sat on the bench for most of his final NBA season with the Celtics in 2007-08. Yes, he has a championship ring.


[+] EnlargeGilbert Arenas
AP Photo/Evan VucciGilbert Arenas gave a whole new definition to the term "gun locker."

24. Gilbert Arenas

The 411: The Wizards guard admitted he decided to store his unloaded gun collection in his locker at the Verizon Center after the birth of his child. Add a gambling-related argument with teammate Javaris Crittenton in December 2009 in which Crittenton reportedly threatened to shoot Arenas in his surgically repaired knee. Then, apparently as a joke, Arenas put his guns near Crittenton's locker and told him to pick one.

The Apology: After meeting with his attorney and authorities over potential felony gun possession charges, Arenas offered this apology: "Joke or not, I now recognize that what I did was a mistake and was wrong. I should not have brought the guns to D.C. in the first place, and I now realize that there's no such thing as joking around when it comes to guns -- even if unloaded."

The Aftermath: Arenas pleaded guilty to a felony charge of carrying a pistol without a license and NBA commissioner David Stern suspended Arenas for the remainder of the 2009-10 season, making this item suddenly much more affordable.


23. Josh McDaniels

The 411: In a December 2009 game against the Giants, NFL Network cameras caught the Broncos coach on the sideline berating his team with profanities tossed in for good measure.

The Apology: Although McDaniels shrugged off the incident after the game, he apologized a couple of days later, saying "Anybody that was offended by that, young or old, I know that's not the kind of example that I want to set or we want to set."

The Aftermath: When the Broncos missed the playoffs at 8-8 after a 6-0 start, it was probably Denver fans who turned to spicy language.


22. Terrelle Pryor

The 411: The Ohio State quarterback wrote "Vick" on the eye-black patch under his left eye during the Buckeyes' game against Navy, in support of controversial NFL quarterback Michael Vick. After the game, Pryor said, "Not everybody's the perfect person in the world. I mean everyone kills people, murders people, steals from you, steals from me, whatever. I think that people need a second chance, and I've always looked up to Mike Vick, and I always will."

The Apology: Pryor went on to apologize, adding, "Not to catch anyone's attention, [but] I'd do it again. He'd been a big role model as I was growing up, and I always looked up to Mike Vick. Maybe it was stupid to get involved in that, I shouldn't put myself in that position. But nothing against dogs, I love dogs and all that. He's out of jail and I looked up to him and he's a big role model. That's why I did it."

The Aftermath: Pryor recently underwent surgery on his right knee and, luckily for OSU, it wasn't performed by a doctor who kills and/or murders people.


21. Sean Avery

The 411: The NHL agitator, then playing with the Dallas Stars, made a point of waiting for cameras to be rolling before a December 2008 game against Calgary when, referring to his ex-girlfriend, actress Elisha Cuthbert, he said "I'm really happy to be back in Calgary; I love Canada. I just want to comment on how it's become like a common thing in the NHL for guys to fall in love with my sloppy seconds. I don't know what that's about, but enjoy the game tonight." (Cuthbert was dating Calgary's Dion Phaneuf at the time.)

The Apology: While en route to meet with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, Avery added, "I would like to sincerely apologize for my off-color remarks to the press yesterday from Calgary. … It was a bad attempt to build excitement for the game, but I am now acutely aware of how hurtful my actions were."

The Aftermath: Avery was suspended six games without pay and ordered to undergo anger management therapy. Dallas coach Dave Tippett publicly criticized Avery, and the Stars waived the pesky winger, taking a sizable financial hit in the process. Avery ultimately landed on his skates when his previous team, the New York Rangers, claimed him and agreed to pick up half the money remaining on his contract. Sorry, fashion world, you're just going to have to wait a little longer for Sean.


[+] EnlargeGreg McMackin
AP Photo/Marco GarciaIt's tough to take Greg McMackin seriously when he's ensconced in flowers.

20. Greg McMackin

The 411: At a news conference before the 2009 season, Hawaii coach Greg McMackin used a gay slur several times when describing a dance performed by Notre Dame players leading up to the '08 Hawaii Bowl. McMackin later explained he was trying to "be funny."

The Apology: After an initial apology, McMackin offered a more formal one through the university, saying "I sincerely apologize for the inappropriate words I used. My comments were out of character, and I have no prejudices against anyone. I'm really upset with myself and I'm truly sorry for my remarks."

The Aftermath: We'd like to point out the irony of a man who coaches a team once known as the Rainbow Warriors stooping to use a gay slur.


19. George Steinbrenner

The 411: After losing the 1981 World Series to the Dodgers despite winning the first two games, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner made one of his many fire- and brimstone-laced statements regarding the team's future.

The Apology: Steinbrenner: "I want to sincerely apologize to the people of New York and to the fans of the New York Yankees everywhere for the performance of the Yankee team in the World Series. I also want to assure you that we will be at work immediately to prepare for 1982.''

The Aftermath: The Yankees finished fifth in the AL East in '82, going through three managers in the process, and didn't make the playoffs again until '95 and didn't have another dynasty until they hired a new assistant to the traveling secretary.


18. Kobe Bryant

The 411: While in Colorado to undergo knee surgery, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant had what he claimed to be consensual sex with a female hotel employee. The woman claimed she was raped and filed charges. The ensuing case eventually was dropped when the accuser refused to testify in court.

The Apology: After purchasing a $4 million purple diamond ring for his wife, Bryant publicly apologized, saying that "although this year has been incredibly difficult for me personally, I can only imagine the pain [the accuser] has had to endure."

The Aftermath: After that season, Bryant signed a new contract to remain with the Lakers. Meantime, coach Phil Jackson left the team after his contract was not renewed, allegedly at Bryant's behest. Jackson then wrote a book in which he called Bryant "uncoachable." The two ultimately reconciled (it helped that Jackson was dating the daughter of the team's owner) and went on to win their fourth championship together in 2009. All of this is pretty much the exact plot of "Gossip Girl," Season 2. Seriously, just change the names.


17. Mark McGwire

The 411: After several denials and one notorious appearance before Congress in 2005, McGwire finally admitted to using steroids last month after being named batting coach of the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Apology: Speaking to The Associated Press, McGwire said "it's very emotional, it's telling family members, friends and coaches, you know, it's former teammates to try to get ahold of, you know, that I'm coming clean and being honest."

The Aftermath: Despite his impressive career statistics, McGwire's hasn't come close to receiving the number of votes required for Hall of Fame induction, but that doesn't bother him. McGwire sees great promise in his new partnership with manager Tony La Russa, adding "He's seen me grow as a person, he's seen me grow as a hitter." And about eight hat sizes, too.


16. Joey Porter

The 411: While playing for the Steelers, the linebacker used a gay slur to describe the play of rival tight end Kellen Winslow.

The Apology: Although citing that "it was a poor choice of words," and "if I offended anybody, I apologize for that," Porter also added, "I didn't mean to offend nobody but Kellen Winslow."

The Aftermath: Porter was released by the Steelers after the season in a money-saving move, then signed with the Dolphins.


15. Charles Barkley

The 411: On Dec. 31, 2008, TNT analyst and Basketball Hall of Famer Charles Barkley was pulled over in Scottsdale, Ariz., and arrested on suspicion of DUI.

The Apology: Barkley, on missing his television job: "I let so many people down. It just [stinks] watching the shows and not being there. I screwed this up."

The Aftermath: Barkley took a leave of absence from TNT to deal with his legal and personal issues and returned after the '09 All-Star Game and is working for a for-profit group to stamp out hunger $5 at a time.


[+] EnlargeJason Giambi
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesThe Yankees spent $120 million and all they got out of it was the golden slump-busting thong.

14. Jason Giambi

The 411: A series of investigative reports by San Francisco Chronicle reporters Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada revealed, among other things, that Giambi testified before a grand jury that he took PEDs provided by Victor Conte and BALCO for three seasons.

The Apology: Although never actually admitting anything while addressing the media in 2005, Giambi said, "When I went into that grand jury, I told the truth," and "I know the fans might want more, but at this present time because of all the legal matters, I can't get into specifics." Giambi's benign tumor and parasite refused to comment.

The Aftermath: Giambi ultimately received the remaining $82 million on the $120 million, seven-year contract he signed with the Yankees in 2001 and was praised by Steinbrenner, who said, "It takes a hell of a big man to stand up and apologize."


13. Andy Pettitte

The 411: Pettitte's name also appeared in the Mitchell report (via trainer Brian McNamee's testimony) as an alleged user of human growth hormone. Pettitte admits to using HGH twice to recover from an elbow injury in 2002.

The Apology: Said Pettitte in 2007: "I felt an obligation to get back to my team as soon as possible. For this reason, and only this reason, for two days I tried human growth hormone. … This is it -- two days out of my life; two days out of my entire career, when I was injured and on the disabled list. I wasn't looking for an edge. I was looking to heal."

The Aftermath: Amid the admission and public skepticism of Pettitte's honesty, the pitcher signed a one-year, $16 million contract to remain with the Yankees.


12. Alex Rodriguez

The 411: Sports Illustrated writer Selena Roberts details Rodriguez's use of PEDs and a failed 2003 drug test in her book "A-Rod: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez." To get in front of the story, Rodriguez interviewed with ESPN's Peter Gammons and held a news conference at the Yankees' spring training facility.

The Apology: Rodriguez to Gammons: "It was such a loosey-goosey era. I'm guilty for a lot of things. I'm guilty for being negligent, naive, not asking all the right questions. And to be quite honest, I don't know exactly what substance I was guilty of using." His presser at spring training was attended by various Yankees players, including catcher Jorge Posada, who walked out halfway through.

The Aftermath: After recovering from hip surgery, Rodriguez led the Yankees to the 2009 World Series title and won the Babe Ruth Award as the New York chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America's postseason MVP. Upon receiving the trophy, an emotional Rodriguez asked, "What's next, the good guy award?" No, A-Rod, what's next is the death of karma.


11. Latrell Sprewell

The 411: During a practice in December 1997, Golden State Warriors guard Latrell Sprewell got into an argument with coach P.J. Carlesimo. The argument escalated to where Sprewell choked Carlesimo until teammates pulled him away.

The Apology: Eight days later in a news conference at an Oakland hotel, Sprewell offered this: ''I want to start by apologizing publicly to P.J. Carlesimo and [general manager Garry] St. Jean." Sprewell added, "I think there are several things that can be learned from this incident. For me, the one thing I've learned is that I have to do a better job of controlling my temper when I'm put in a situation where frustration mounts and you want to lose control."

The Aftermath: Sprewell was suspended for the remainder of the season, and the Warriors voided the remaining $24 million on his $32 million contract. Sprewell later signed a lucrative contract with the Knicks. In 2002, while making $16 million a year with the Timberwolves, Sprewell turned down a contract valued at $27 million from Minnesota, calling it an "insult" and reminding everyone that "I got my family to feed." In retrospect, it probably wasn't a shrewd move.


10. Wade Boggs

The 411: After Boggs ended a four-year extramarital affair with Margo Adams, his private thoughts on various teammates (Jim Rice "thinks he's white") and opponents were chronicled in Adams' 1988 interview with Penthouse magazine.

The Apology: Although Boggs apologized to teammates mentioned in the article, he refused to say anything else in a closed-door team meeting. Also, Boggs did what everyone who felt like crying did in the 1980s -- he appeared on "20/20" with Barbara Walters (aka the Original Oprah).

The Aftermath: This resulted in a rare double apology when pitcher Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd publicly said he was sorry for telling the media Boggs needed to seek professional help for being a sex addict.


9. Rex Ryan

The 411: While attending an MMA fight in Florida shortly before Super Bowl XLIV, Jets coach Rex Ryan responded to taunts by Dolphins fans by flipping them the middle finger, which was captured on a cell phone camera and shared extensively over the Internet.

The Apology: Before the incident, Ryan told the crowd in an interview, "I want to just tell everybody in Miami, hey, we're coming to beat you twice next year." A few days later, Ryan said the gesture "was stupid and inappropriate."

The Aftermath: Ryan was fined $50,000 by the Jets, but we suspect he earned respect of about 98 percent of the team's fans in the process. Oh, and the Jets probably will beat Miami twice next year.


8. George Hill

The 411: After the Spurs guard took nude pictures of himself and sent them to a girlfriend, the photos were leaked to the notorious blog "The Dirty."

The Apology: Hill apologized to just about everybody earlier this month, saying "I have matured and learned from this episode."

The Aftermath: Hill and the Spurs attempted to sue The Dirty to take the photos down, claiming the use violates the league's copyrights to all things representing the Spurs, but a lawyer for the blog refused, responding that "trademark law does not apply to criticism of celebrities making fools of themselves."


7. Grady Sizemore

The 411: Several seminude photos of the Indians outfielder were stolen from an e-mail account and sent out to various blogs in November 2009.

The Apology: While apologizing for the incident, Sizemore added, "It was meant for me and my girlfriend, and it just happened to work out the way it did."

The Aftermath: Only time will tell when the MLB season begins in April.


[+] EnlargeGreg Oden
Sam Forencich/Getty ImagesGreg, everyone in the arena really appreciates you going with, you know, ... clothes.

6. Greg Oden

The 411: Oden took several self-portrait nude photos with his cell phone camera and sent them to a girlfriend. After they broke up, she posted the pics on the Internet.

The Apology: Talking to 95.5 The Game in Portland, Oden apologized profusely, adding, "Those pictures were taken over a year and a half ago. I've definitely grown since then."

The Aftermath: Some jokes write themselves.


5. Joey Porter

The 411: In September 2006, two of Porter's dogs, a pit bull and a mastiff, escaped from his property and killed a miniature horse at a nearby farm.

The Apology: Porter released a statement saying, "I have reached out to the owners of the horse and will do whatever I can to help them get through this very unfortunate situation."

The Aftermath: Our dubious sources report that the dogs didn't actually intend to harm the horse, they only wanted to offend Kellen Winslow.


4. Roger Clemens

The 411: Amid allegations of steroid use from the 2007 Mitchell report, pitcher Roger Clemens was also accused of having an affair with country singer Mindy McCready -- allegedly beginning when she was 15 years old.

The Apology: Clemens denied ever using performance-enhancing drugs or bedding McCready at 15, but he did admit in 2008 to "mistakes in his personal life."

The Aftermath: Any alleged affairs are the least of Clemens' worries. He still might face federal perjury charges if he lied to Congress, and the defamation suit brought against him by former trainer Brian McNamee is still ongoing. He allegedly settled the civil suit brought by his third ear.


3. Rick Pitino

The 411: Louisville coach Rick Pitino admitted to an extramarital affair in 2003 with Karen Cunagin Sypher in his testimony to the FBI regarding Sypher's alleged $10 million attempted extortion of the coach. The tryst supposedly took place in a Kentucky restaurant after it had closed.

The Apology: Pitino apologized to the Louisville community and his immediate family, stating "I let them down with my indiscretion six years ago. And I'm sorry for that and I tell them that every day." Pitino's apology also mentioned how he came to the university "at a very difficult time," referring to the 9/11 tragedy.

The Aftermath: With the Cardinals out of the Top 25 this season, Pitino reportedly floated his name as a candidate to coach the Nets. He later denied it, with our dubious sources claiming that restaurants in New Jersey close too late for his liking.


2. Vince Coleman

The 411: While with the Mets in 1993, Vince Coleman threw an M-80 firecracker at fans waiting for player autographs outside Dodger Stadium. The powerful explosive injured three people, including a 2½-year-old girl.

The Apology: Addressing the media with his wife and children at his side, Coleman stated "I now realize that my actions on July 24 were very inappropriate." Coleman also took issue with being depicted as "an insensitive, non-caring athlete," adding, "nothing more can be further than the truth."

The Aftermath: Coleman was suspended for the remainder of the season by the Mets and traded to Kansas City in the offseason. He also received three years' probation for the incident and is currently paid not to be a public speaker.


1. John Calipari

The 411: In his rookie season coaching the Nets in 1997, Calipari took issue with the written criticism of Newark Star-Ledger writer Dan Garcia and confronted him in a parking lot, calling him a "Mexican idiot."

The Apology: Although Calipari claimed he was joking (even though multiple witnesses heard him shouting the slur across a parking lot), at the request of league and team officials, he read a statement saying, "In retrospect, I can understand how the remark could have been misinterpreted."

The Aftermath: Twenty games into the lockout-abbreviated 1999 season, the Nets (3-17 at the time) fired Calipari.


Thomas Neumann, Jemele Hill, DJ Gallo, Cameron Martin, Toby Mergler and Paul Lukas contributed to this article.

Mike Philbrick is an editor for Page 2 and the co-host of the Page 2 Podcast. You can contact him at michael.w.philbrick@espn3.com. If you didn't like this piece, he sincerely apologizes.


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Mike Philbrick is an editor for Grantland.