Ryan Lochte may be a 12-time Olympic swimming medal winner, but when it comes to managing crisis, he’s a loser.
When the 32-year-old Lochte issued a poorly worded “non-apology” apology for his behavior in an episode that sullied the Rio Olympic games, he only compounded his problems and deepened his ugly-American image with the news media and sports fans around the world.
In sworn statements to Brazilian investigators, three other American swimmers described Lochte as drunk and unruly when he trashed a service station restroom, urinated in public and later lied about what happened. Lochte, and initially the other swimmers, claimed that they had been held up and robbed by bandits posing as police officers, when in fact, they themselves had broken the law.
Lochte fled for the U.S. before he could be apprehended, but his teammates were detained and came clean to the authorities, making them all look like overgrown spoiled American brats.
But it’s Lochte’s “apology,” which he shared with the world via Instagram, that is even more galling. Here are key excerpts, with commentary:
“I want to apologize for my behavior last weekend – for not being more careful and candid in how I described the events of that early morning …” Lochte wrote. If he were truly apologizing, then he should say “I apologize,” not “I want to apologize.” Also, “for not being more careful and candid?” How about the simple: “for lying …”
“It’s traumatic to be out with your friends in a foreign country – with a language barrier – and have a stranger point a gun at you and demand money to let you leave …” Lochte is a world-traveler who has competed on at least four continents. This excuse clearly doesn’t wash. And by the way, that “stranger” was a policeman who was wearing a badge.
“There has already been too much said and too many valuable resources dedicated to what happened last weekend, so I hope we spend our time celebrating the great success stories and performances of these games…” Lochte is employing classic misdirection here, trying to shift the focus on the “bigger” picture and seemingly praise the other Olympic champions. And besides, it isn’t his call to make about how much attention is paid to this issue. He only seems churlish by lecturing the media and the public about where they place their interests.
In truth, it’s Lochte’s publicists who should be hung out to dry here. If they’re experienced in crisis, they’ve made an obvious mistake with this defensive and sanctimonious apology. If they are inexperienced in crisis, well, it shows.
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