By Jon Keller, WBZ-TVBy Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) — If you were up late on Wednesday night/Thursday morning – really, really late – perhaps you heard the following apology on ESPN’s SportsCenter: “On two occasions in recent weeks SportsCenter incorrectly cited a 2002 report regarding the New England Patriots [and false allegations they taped a St. Louis Rams practice prior to the 2002 Super Bowl]… we apologize to the Patriots organization.”

Really, ESPN? Apologizing for twice repeating that long-retracted story at 12:30 a.m.?

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Apologies come in all shapes and sizes, and while crisis management expert Ashley McCown credits ESPN with at least acting quickly when they got called on their blunder, she says some mea culpas are more persuasive than others.

“You’ve got to really be sorry,” she says.

“I think back on Lance Armstrong, he lied for years and years before he finally had to admit it, and nobody believed him at that point. If you’re gonna lie for that long, when at some point you apologize, it’s not real.”

McCown says rapper Kanye West did the right thing when he apologized quickly and emotionally for upstaging Taylor Swift and Beck at awards ceremonies. And he didn’t try to selectively apologize, as Governor Charlie Baker did when he appeared to shrug off outrage over confederate flag displays after the recent Charleston murders.

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“If anything I said earlier today didn’t ring true to that I certainly apologize,” Baker said in response to outcry over his comments, a no-no in McCown’s book.

“It’s a real challenge when you start to parse who you’re apologizing to. I think the governor did that for a very specific reason and I understand it. I think it often will draw criticism and debate because not everyone will find that satisfactory.”

Other pitfalls — apologies that lack humility or sound forced, like dry-eyed crying, or ones that don’t show the apologist understand how they’ve impacted others.

McCown prefers corporate apologies on social media rather than, say, newspaper ads because the web invites response and engagement.

And what does she make of the approach of Donald Trump, who flatly refuses to apologize for anything? Will he have to come down off that position at some point?

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Says McCown: “I think there’s a difference between needing to and whether or not he will.”

Jon Keller