One of the greatest quotes from an athlete came from Sir Charles Barkley. The NBA star, who was always getting into trouble, said: “I’m not a role model… Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.”
Charles Barkley was absolutely right. Athletes aren’t role models; they lie, cheat and steal just like the rest of us. And we have a long history of apologies as proof.
The latest one comes from our guy Lance Armstrong. Tonight, the disgraced biker will sit down with Oprah and reveal that he was a big cheat who has been doping for years.
Now, remember, just a couple of years ago Lance was this nation’s greatest hero: he beat nut cancer, while winning seven Tour de France titles and bringing recognition to a super niche sport.
We’re gonna see him do a lot of apologizing tonight.
The only question that remains is how will it compare to some previous examples of athletes apologizing?
Watch Lance’s apology tonight, then scroll down and look at some of the most famous apologies from athletes.
Tonya Harding’s non-apology
Jealousy is no joke, man. That sh*t can ruin lives. Leading up to the 1994 Olympics, Tonya Harding was the best figure skater in the world. Correction: she would have been the best figure skater in the world if Nancy Kerrigan didn’t exist.
As Ivan Drago once famously said: “I must break you.”
To become the best, Tonya hired hillbilly goons to come and break Nancy’s leg during practice. The incident became a huge scandal and the paper trailer eventually lead back to Tonya, who was forced to withdraw from the USFA, leading to the uncomfortable press conference you can see here.
The Apology scale: 3
This apology was weak, considering that she doesn’t take responsibility for orchestrating the hit. According to Tonya, her only wrongdoing was not going to police when she found out it was her ex-husband who did the attack. It’s a story that she sticks to even 15 years later. (To be fair to Tonya, she might still just be punch drunk from trading punches with Paula Jones.)
Alex Rodriguez apologizes for taking steroids, but fails to say sorry for throwing cousin under the bus
In 2009, Alex Rodriguez’s status as an all-time great baseball player took a major hit when Sports Illustrated revealed that the slugger tested positive for steroids back in 2003. To stop the bleeding, somewhat, Alex’s people set up an interview with ESPN’s Peter Gammons, where Gammons fed ARod questions that had a marshmallow texture. Soon after, ARod held a press conference where he did some more apologizing while throwing some mysterious “cousin” under the bus.
Apology scale: 4
For this apology to work, Sir ARod needed to be tested. No softballs. We needed questions from someone like Bob Costas (or Derek Jeter) so we could see Alex for real.
Mike Tyson apologizes to Evander for munching on his ear
What is it about Oprah and apologies? Is it the cookies and apple juice she serves? We’re not sure, but damn is she good. In 2009, she sat down with old boxing rivals Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield and watched as the two men aired out their grievances.
Well, there was only one real grievance: during their 1997 rematch, Mike Tyson went all Hannibal Lecter on the Real Deal Holyfield’s ear. To this day, Holyfield’s right ear looks like a piece of chewed up placenta.
Oprah got the two gents to sit down, and Tyson apologized for his crazy moment.
Apology scale: 7
This was a relatively sharp apology. Not too sentimental, Mikey faced Evander face-to-face and there was even a handshake. It was a pretty cool moment to see from these withered warriors.
Michael Vick apologizes for dog fighting — PETA still pissed
Every young up-and-coming athlete could learn a thing or two from the Michael Vick situation: make sure you have the right people around you. Vick learned this the hard way when, in 2007, he was knocked on dog fighting charges.
Not only did he take too long to take the charges seriously (hiring a lawyer at the last possible moment) his codefendants all testified against him. ¡Ay, caramba!
Apology scale: 5
Since Vick came home from prison, the Philadelphia Eagle has been on his best behavior, talking out against dog fighting. But his first apology…was not good. He pulled that whole “Imma speak from my heart” act, but throughout his speech, Vick seemed cold.
Marion Jones weeps as she apologizes
For years, Olympic track star Marion Jones denied doping accusations. Those types of accusations can only chase you for so long before they catch you. In 2007, Marion finally fessed up, pleading guilty for lying to federal prosecutors. She would do six months for this crime.
Apology scale: 9
Tears, people. Tears. They buy you so much stock. And during Marion’s apology, the waterworks were flowing relentlessly.
Kobe Bryant’s apologizes to his pissed off wife
Kobe caught himself in a sticky situation back in 2004 in Colorado when a hotel worker claimed the NBA star raped her. The happily married Kobe denied the rape charges, but admitted that he had sex with the woman.
Apology scale: 7
This was really your standard Kobe Bryant-like apology. What makes it special, however, is Vanessa Bryant’s icy, Medusa-like death stare as Kobe just rambles on. It’s haunting.
OJ Simpson FINALLY apologizes
Prosecutors were never able to nail OJ Simpson on the whole killing his wife thing. (Even after writing a book about the damn thing.) However, we all kinda knew that they would eventually have their chance; he was gonna caught up in some other kind of sketchy scenario sooner or later.
It finally happened in 2008: the ex-football great was sentenced to 15 years in prison for running into someone’s hotel room and trying to stick the place up.
Apology scale: 3
Sorry, Juiceman — we’re not buying your apology, mainly because we fully expect a book called I’m Not Sorry For Robbing Those Dudes to be published any moment now.
Ben Roethlisberger apologizes for being a sketchy human being
It’s hard to get the benefit of the doubt when multiple people accuse you of sexual assault. Ben Roethlisberger picked up a shady reputation for his inappropriate nature when it came to women and it finally came to bite him when he got suspended for six games during the 2012 season.
Apology scale: 7
One of the keys to a good apology is being able to beat yourself up well enough. Big Ben does a good job of that here, as he assassinates his own character while promising the fans of Pittsburgh he will do better.
Aw, shucks, Andy Pettitte apologizes for using HGH
In 2007, goody two shoes Andy Pettitte admitted that he used HGH, a banned substance, to help him recover from an elbow injury during his 2002 season. It was a shocking discovery, considering that Andy was one of the good guys in baseball.
Apology scale: 9
For years, Andy built up a rep for being a stand up guy. His “I’m sorry” moment felt absolutely real to us.
Tiger Woods says I’m sorry to all of his sponsors
One of the biggest sporting scandals of all time happened near the end of the century, when it was discovered that the golfing legend was sticking his “club” in any hole moving.
Apology scale: 6
The thing with this apology is that we never felt like it was warranted. This was a private situation with his wife.