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​Novak Djokovic Teaches a Vital Life Lesson in the Art of the Non-Apology

Have you ever had to apologise, even when you didn't really feel like it? Yeah, that's now known as "doing a Djokovic"

by Will Magee
Mar 23 2016, 1:55pm

PA Images

This article originally appeared on VICE Sports UK.

In the words of Seneca, "to err is human". Even when our intentions are pure, human beings are bound to make mistakes. Likewise, sometimes we have murky, ambiguous intentions and the resulting mistakes are sort of horrible and embarrassing.

Still, that doesn't mean we want to say sorry. Let's face it, apologising for stuff is a relentlessly awful process.

As a human being (and not, in fact, the sinister tennis robot everyone makes him out to be), Novak Djokovic knows this as well as anyone. He made a major error after his Indian Wells victory earlier this week by essentially saying that male tennis players deserve more prize money than their female counterparts. Unsurprisingly, this view is deeply divisive for many of his colleagues in tennis and indeed the general public.

Coming so soon after the wildly sexist comments of Indian Wells CEO Raymond Moore – a guy who refers to women tennis stars as "lady players" like he's a repressed butler from the Roaring Twenties – Djokovic's remarks seemed like the public relations equivalent of punching himself in the face. However, he has now apologised.

But did he want to apologise? Did he fuck.

If you've ever been in a situation where you've felt both pressured by society into apologising for something and also profoundly reluctant to make said apology, you have a lot to learn from Djokovic. If you're the sort of person who likes public nose picking, farting in lifts, or swiping priority bus seats from pensioners, then Novak's latest statement of contrition should serve as the blueprint for every apology you ever make.

It is in fact the ultimate non-apology, the model way to say sorry without the miserable guilt associated with taking actual, proper responsibility.


Let's translate the key lines from Djokovic's statement, shall we? The first is this: "As you may have seen, I was asked to comment on a controversy which wasn't of my making". This is the rough equivalent of saying: "Before I even start, remember it's that Raymond Moore dude you should be angry at".

Novak adds: "Euphoria and adrenalin [sic] after the win on Sunday got the better of me". Blame human biology, guys. Blame hormones. It's all hormones' fault.

Thence follows two paragraphs of baffling waffle which bear very little resemblance to Djokovic's original comments. Finally, at last, he says he would like to apologise "to anyone who has taken this the wrong way". In other words, it's our fault for misunderstanding him. Maybe it's us who should actually be apologising – the hunter becomes the hunted!

This isn't just a non-apology, it's a work of art. It is a perfectly crafted statement, designed to seem vaguely remorseful while simultaneously lacking even a modicum of remorse.

You might not like Novak's original comments, you might not think this is an adequate response, but you have to admire the calculated brushstrokes of this unrepentant masterpiece. In an age when sports stars are instantly lambasted for their unpalatable opinions, Djokovic has transcended the traditional mea culpa with the deftest "sorry-not-sorry" we have ever seen.

We have much to learn from Djokovic – just not when it comes to gender equality.