The End for Kelly Tilghman?

That’s the question being kicked about by sports pundits, columnists [photopress:Kelly_Tilghman.jpg,full,alignright]and bloggers after she made a questionable remark about Tiger Woods on Friday’s broadcast of the Mercedes Championship.

Referring to what other young pros on the PGA Tour possibly could do to halt the superstar’s domination, Tilghman said they might “…lynch Tiger Woods in a back alley.”

Pretty clear that live broadcast or not, one can’t suggest that lynching a black man (or a Cablinasian, depending on your perspective) is ever a means to an end. Tilghman, of course, is aware of this, but the comment came out anyway, bringing a strange new take on golf’s only female lead broadcaster.

In a statement issued Monday, Tilghman said: “On Friday during our golf broadcast, Nick Faldo and I were discussing Tiger’s dominance in the golf world and I used some poorly chosen words. I have known Tiger for 12 years and I have apologized directly to him. I also apologize to our viewers who may have been offended by my comments.”

The story was first reported by New York Newsday.
The Golf Channel also responded to the situation. “We regret the unfortunate choice of words Kelly used during the broadcast and apologize to anyone who was offended by her remarks,” the network said in its statement.

“We take this matter very seriously. She has apologized privately to Tiger and publicly on the air.”

The fate of Golf Channel anchor Kelly Tilghman now rests solely on the mood of Tiger Woods.

Tilghman made the classic goof while trying to give Tiger a compliment.

Some are already putting Tilghman in the Don Imus camp — the radio personality who made slurs about the Rutgers womens basketball team.

Just as the issue seemed to be dying down, the other shoe dropped. The Golf Channel announced this eveningthat Tilghman would be suspended for two weeks, and the Rev. Al Sharpton, never one to turn away from a spot on the bandwagon, said she should be fired:

“While we believe that Kelly’s choice of words was inadvertent and that she did not intend them in an offensive manner, the words were hurtful and grossly inappropriate,” Golf Channel said in its statement. “Consequently, we have decided to suspend Kelly for two weeks, effective immediately.”

All of this is raising the spectre of Fuzzy Zoeller, the former Masters champ who suggest that Woods not serve fried chicken or collard greens, “or whatever the hell they serve,” at the Champions Dinner in 1998. Woods never publicly accepted Zoeller’s apology, leaving a black mark against his name to this day.

While Tiger seems to have accepted Tilghman’s apology — though it might have helped her cause had he said so himself, instead of using his agent to issue his remarks — one has to wonder how long she can possibly last now that the GC has effectively made her a lame duck.

Interestingly, this is one rare occasion where Al Sharpton seems to make some sense:

“I don’t know why that would pop into her head, but it popped out of her mouth and she should be accountable.”

Tilghman has struggled occasionally since taking over the lead role of the Golf Channel’s coverage with partner Nick Faldo. At times she’s appeared uncomfortable, and the rapport with Faldo seems forced at best. If the GC was looking to get rid of her, this would present an opportunity. On the other hand, Rich Lerner — if I recall correctly — was also suspended at one point by the GC for an incident (not on camera) at the PGA Championship six or seven years ago. He recovered well (though in person he looks like a strange wax mannequin).

The truth is Tilghman’s reputation is sullied and her ability to do live television is suspect. When she returns she’ll be under even more pressure than she was previously, and one has to wonder if the Golf Channel will use this to start anew.

There are several takes on this story, including Golfweek’s Jeff Rude who thinks she should stay, while something called The Bleacher Report thinks she’s got to go. Hooked On Golf weighs in, while Waggle Room points out Tiger apparently loves to text people on his cell — even about this. Bob Weeks at Score, who knows Tilghman, says the incident is “unfortunate,” but that nothing malicious was intended.

Update: The Guardian’s Lawrence Donegan weighs in and says Tilghman got off lightly:

The ultimate judge is the public and as far as it is possible to gauge the public’s view, it was not impressed. Nor are Tilghman’s employers, who have now suspended her for two weeks. It should have been longer.

Thanks to Geoff Shackelford for pointing out the video of Tilghman’s poor choice of words.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

43 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Rev. Al Sharpton needs to get off his high horse and check his facts. He said the word “lynch” had racist connotations and a racist meaning, which came as a massive suprise to me, since I always thought it referred to mob “justice”, wherein a bunch of people murder someone else without due legal process.

    A quick check shows that Merriam Webster agrees with this definition ( what we now see is that Kelly Tilghman is herself becoming the victim of a mob-mentality injustice. Someone jumps up and says she’s being racist, and other people jump on the bandwagon. Anyone with an ounce of sense could see that she was simply making a joke about how Tiger Woods is so good that the only way for his peers to beat him would be to physically take him out of the game.

  • This is a big crock of political correctness gone past sanity.
    Racism is in the eye of the beholder and I guess if the Rev. demands it then it must be done.

  • Old Rev. needs to read up on what he talks about first. Lynch has no racial context to it. Just cause it is killing by hanging…hello, back in the Wild West times white people were hung just the same. I actually believe that the Rev is racist towards white people…

  • The Rev is the one out of line here. The word “lynch” does not apply only to African Americans. It is ridiculous that something like this even makes the news headlines.

  • Ms Tilghman’s may seem racist on paper, but seeing her simply reacting to Mr Faldo’s comment doesn’t appear to be offensive to me. The good Reverend seems to bankrupt of ideas to take this so seriously. Let Ms Tilghman continue.

  • is everyone out of their freakin’ minds on this ? oh no..don’t offend Tiger………..does anyone actually believe she would want to malign the guy? So the answer is to suspend her? She’ll never be the same now and I’ll be surprised if she returns with that mark against her .Unbelievable………just friggin unbelievable

  • I think she sucks as a broadcaster, and this is a great opportunity for her to go. However given how racist the golf world is in general, I’m sure she’ll stick around and most people will like her cause they’ll think it’s about freedom of speech and other nonsense.

  • A poor analogy to use for her comments would be “unconscious incompetence” or “unconscious racism”. The word lynch has racist connotations although in literal terms, there were many non racial incidents tied to the word lynch. Her use of the word was unconscious but she was incompetent for allowing it to be uttered in a mass media setting.

    The golf channel is in the mass media business and in the world of mass media, there is low tolerance for issues outside the narrow definition of norm…which is why political correctness has such prominence.

    Her intentions did not seem malicious but her bahviour falls outside the lines of acceptability for mass media and therefore, she needs to pay the price and be accountable. But as we all know, in western societies, especially in the US, everyone has a second chance and if she is gone from the golf channel, expect her to reappear somewhere else.

  • I find it extremely offensive that the CNN broadcaster and Sharpton used the word crucify. I’m sure that all Christians everywhere are insulted since this word is equal in racisim to Christians as lynching is to blacks. I think that the CNN guy and Sharpton should be taken off the airways. Oh, do I sound like an asshole, well that’s what I think of eveyone that believes that Tillman should be fired for using a good word. Lynch-mob!!!!! Oh my, all the history channel programs that teach black history will have to go. Oh no, any channel that shows Blazzing Saddles and that movie uses the nigger word a lot will have to go.
    And of course this blog will have to go because I have just used to offensive word or are they good words descibing an offensive situation – Freedom of Speech.

  • There is lots of ugliness under the umbrella of “freedom of speech”. Freedom of speech without an underlying set of values and tolerance is dangerous. Those values and tolerance levels change over time. Freedom of speech is not without accountability as defined by accepted norms. What was accepted in one generation may no longer be accepted today yet both were operating under the same “freedom of speech” guidelines.

    The issue is complex. Making it simple by reiterating the age old “freedom of speech” slogan reflects a superficial understanding of this important right within our society.

  • No one but Kelly Tilghman knows whether or not Kelly Tilghman is racist. However, the remark was racist. Yes, I do believe Al Sharpton is an opportunist, but in this case, even a stopped clock is right a couple of times a day. The Golf Channel needs to cut Kelly Tilghman loose, period.

    As for the rest of you down-playing this comment, then you clearly have No SENSE of what it is like being a minority in America. Picture yourself as an African American. Think about the generations of your ancestors having been enslaved for hundred of years, sold like cattle, abused at will and segregated until the 1960’s. I’m a Canadian, and I’m still blown away by the fact that segregation ever existed, let alone was only abolished in the 1960’s. .

    Clearly, the word “lynch” is engrained in the African American psyche; and with good reason. It is a word that should be used only in the context of illustrating some of the darker chapters of American history. Never to be used in jest, whatever the intention.

    Given all this, Tilghman’s comment is much bigger than Tilghman, Golf or Tiger. It’s an American issue. As for Tilghman, at worst she’ll loose her job and her comment will only remain in the minds of Americans until the next gaffe of some dim-witted broadcaster.

  • Tiger and Kelly are good friends, they have known each other for 12 or 13 years. Tiger has chosen her to host some of his corporate events. He has already said it is a non-issue – just like everyone else should have said.

    As for Weekend Enthusiast: You Are Wrong.
    You were just presented with a definition of lynch by someone who took the time to look it up in MW dictionary. Don’t proceed to give us your pathetic narrow understanding of the meaning of the word and bore us with your small minded take on mass media and it’s role in society. I’ve seen way more “lynchings” of white men in western movies than I’ve seen in any other context.

    We all have our opinion on Tilghman as an anchor of the Golf Channel, but like her or not she is getting a raw deal on this one.

    Lets not forget Peter Kessler, who got fired because he “dared” to criticize Arnold Palmer. The Golf Channel does not like to be embarrassed or even have any undue attention put upon it…..give me a break. What would they do if Tiger said “cancel her suspension or I won’t give you any interviews this year”?

  • While I think her comment would cause anyone to reel back and say, “Did… she just say what I think she just said?” I don’t think it was said with any malice, and as you say in your post, Fuzzy Zoeller MEANT malice, yet despite the black mark against his name, he was back out on the course with people saying, “Oh come on, he’s an old fart and didn’t know any better.” Once people get over their easily offended sensibilities and realize she didn’t mean it the way the “Reverend” Al Sharpton is saying she did, they’ll move on to condemning her in other ways. I think it’s interesting that she just said it without thinking of its implications on a racist level, while all of her critics are saying, “How could you SAY that? The guy is BLACK.” Meanwhile, Tilghman didn’t necessarily see him as black, or she probably would have been far more careful in her comments. Interesting that the colour-blind one is the one being maligned here.

    What it comes down to is the fact she’s a woman. Men have never liked female commentators, which is why I’ve never understood why sports outlets insist on putting them there, when most of them are unqualified in comparison to their male peers. They all have that deep voice (I like to think of Tilghman as the female Elvis, with the same slurring in her speech), but Tilghman is attractive, which got her the spot.

    Yes, Tilghman said a stupid thing, but it wasn’t meant with any ill-intent, unlike Zoeller. Should she be fired for it? No. Will she watch her words in the future? Of course. Are people making a much bigger deal about this than they would have if Feherty had said it? Yes.

  • NikiS
    To me, that fact that Tilghman is a woman is immaterial. The thought never entered my mind actually… Kind of like you suggesting that Tilghman didn’t really regard Tiger as a black man.

  • Longdrive365 – did you read my post…and did you read the definition provided by Webster’s? Remedial reading lessons could help you followed up with basic analysis skills. I think you have been watching too many western movies to have a coherent thought.

  • Rob – I hope “so what”‘s views of journalists aren’t broadly held. I don’t know about you but I’m not too good at doing anything else…!

  • Sharpton has done little good to further his causes recently. Case in point his injustice towards the Duke players and now this ridiculous comment “Lynching is not murder in general, it’s not assault in general,” Sharpton said. “It’s a specific racial term that this women should be held accountable for. What she said is racist. Whether she’s a racist … is immaterial.” I wonder if Sharpton understands that the definition of lynching has nothing to do with race but is described as “Any act of violence inflicted by a mob upon the body of another person which results in the death of the person.” If anything Kelly should not have chosen those words but if Tiger can forgive and forget can’t the true racist Rev. Al Sharpton forgive.

  • Al Sharpton is a hypocrite! When Joe Biden made racist remarks last year, Sharpton thought it was funny. What Tilghman said was wrong and tasteless, but her main crime was saying it and not being a Democrat.

  • Malice is defined as:

    “desire to inflict injury, harm, or suffering on another, either because of a hostile impulse or out of deep-seated meanness…”

    One can only have conjecture on whether Fuzzy Zoeller had malice when he made his remarks about Tiger Woods several years ago. Longdrive365 says “To say there was malice in Zoeller’s comments all those years ago, is not accurate.” Longdrive or anyone else cannot make a statement of fact on this issue. Without being Fuzzy, it is imposible to determine whether he had a “desire to inflict injury, harm etc”. Only Fuzzy knows for sure his intent at the time…regardless of what he has stated since…

  • Davis and the others,

    First of all, when is joking about murdering someone with mob justice appropriate. Second, fag means a smoke in England but it means something entirely different in America just as lynching may seem like just a generic word in Canada but in America our Senate had debates on anti-lynching laws in the early 1900’s which had to do specifically with the fact that white supremacist mobs were grabbing black men from their homes for offenses as simple as looking at a white women, castrating them, placing their removed testicles in their mouths and hanging them from trees. Kelly, as a person who grew up in the South, knows exactly what the history of the word lynch is. I doubt the description of lynching has been used on American public tv in any other context than a historical record in 25 years except for Kelly’s attempt at humor and there is a reason why.

  • I want to know who made Rev. Al the voice for every African-Amerian in this world. Why can’t he accept that Kelly apologized to Tiger and all the viewers. Tiger said it was a non-issue and has accepted Kelly’s apology and the Golf Channel has taken action by suspending her for two weeks. So Rev. Al…let it go and try not to make a buck off of this non-issue. Or at least talk with Tiger befor you stick you nose in something thats not your business.

  • Being born in the mid-70’s, Kelly might not be as sensitive to debates that took place in the early 1900’s as you would like her to be Derrick. She was basically saying “they should rough him up in a back alley” – because he is the best golfer the world has ever seen and they might not be able to beat him otherwise.

    She was not suggesting they should drag him through the streets and hang him from a tree because he his a black man.

    It’s wake up time……

  • Yup, it’s wake up time alright and Longdrive365 needs to emerge from his or her sleep.

    Canadians who have not lived in the south do not understand the history and legacy of that region….nor the racial tension that still lurks under the skin of many. There is a reason why Kelly’s comment attracted so much attention and many Canadians or (particularly) those not from the south do not understand why…As opposed to framing the issue from the filter of a Canadian experience, they need to understand the issue from the perspective of those living in the US, particularly in the southern US.

  • Wake up time Enthusiast – try not to steal my lines….

    The post wasn’t directed at you, but you obviously want to spar with me cause I pointed out that you are a boring blow-hard who likes to read his own pointless musings.

    First: you have the name wrong. I thought you might catch on, but since you’ve made numerous posts now still using 365, I guess I will clue you in so that perhaps you can correct it – 325.

    Second: I don’t care if you live in Iceland, Italy or Cuba and what kind of filter you see the world through. Everyone agrees that she really didn’t mean they should lynch Tiger, she simply used the wrong word. So everyone wants to nail her to the cross for finding the wrong word when she searched her vocabulary under the pressure of being on TV and having to come up with some amusing banter. She is one of the few who Tiger actually counts as a friend – a select group indeed – she meant him no ill will, so it comes down to miss-speaking by using the wrong word.

    This is a standard that even the President of the United States is not held to, who as we all know miss-speaks almost every day. But hey, drag her through the mud, ruin her career and cut her up into little pieces because she used a word without thinking it through, all while under the pressure of being behind the cameras. Whatever makes you happy……….

    Third: I don’t find you the least bit interesting. Don’t take it personally, maybe there are people around here that do take an interest in your wandering jibberish, but I don’t.

  • Derrick,

    You need to get off your high horse. I pray that one day the racial discrimination in this country will be forgotten as an evil piece of American history, but it will never change with representatives like Al Sharpton at the helm.

  • Longwhatever:

    Thanks for your personal insults. People react to incidents like Kelly’s comments for a reason. To dismiss them out of hand is disrespectful to their beliefs and feelings. Canadians often react this way to situations in the United States and more often than not, they have not walked in the shoes of those affected.

    The issue is not whether Tiger forgives Kelly for her comments…the issue is people’s reaction to what she said. Guess what…being on TV is tough and one has a job to perform. If you cannot control your mouth, then find another profession or live with the consequences, fight back, get better, and do not let it happen again. Least of all, do not make excuses for it…which is something you apparently are doing for Kelly.

    And btw, The President is held to the same standard…there are just different capabilities for the public to deal with his behaviour based on his position.

    Bottom line, Kelly’s comments were inappropriate. She is paying the price as she should, and if she has the stamina and strength of character, she will return either with the Golf Channel or another organization a better person for having learned how to deal with the mistake.

  • Al Sharpton is, as usually, of his rocker and needs to shut up. On behalf of everyone who is sick of the divisiveness, Al, please shut up!
    I’m so sick of his crap its mind boggling how a black man can set so many double standards and be sooo racist!

  • I don’t know about Tiger, but I’m deeply offended by Kelly’s remark even if she didn’t mean to say it. My grandfather and his brother were lynched by a white mob in Orangeburg, SC in 1909. They were accused of not crossing the other side of the street as a white woman approached them. I don’t think of a western movie when I hear the word “lynch” or “string up.” The definition in the dictionary has nothing to do with the thousands of lynchings of black men (and some black women) that occurred in the south from slavery days to the 1970’s. Shame on those of you excusing her remark. Most of you posting are not black; you have no idea what the word “lynch” means to us.

  • After some consideration, I think Tilgman probably deserves a second chance. Though her remarks were stupid, I think there’s a larger problem of this issue being simply too divisive.

    The upside, if there is one, is that it got people talking about racial tensions that still lurk just below the surface. Hopefully, we can all learn something from this, I know Tilghman certainly will.

  • Here’s my theory:

    80’s movie hottie Kelly Lynch (Road House, Drugstore Cowboy) is trying to make a comeback. And this is her handlers’ ploy to get her back to the lime light.

  • Alright already… There’s racism in America.. deal with that daily…not just when Sharpton barks. Sharpton is a camera hogging ham… this is not news… ignore him. Kelly goofed… who among us hasn’t. You have an ex-coke snorting, combat dodging, drunk for President. Surely if you can forgive and elect him…. twice… you can forgive Kelly. Give the woman a break.

    From the perspective of a Black person north of the 49th it’s poignant that America has evolved to the place where there are Black people powerful enough that White people dare not piss them off or their lives might change. Shoe on the other foot.. eh?

  • Shame on all the people who want to now “string up”
    Kelly for a poorly chosen word. I bet everyone of them at one point in their lives said a phrase with a little extra mustard on it in order to make a point. She obviously has a past history with Tiger and he has no problem with it. No different than one sibling telling another “you’re dead” after losing the first round of a game of fish.

    GROW UP PEOPLE, deal with some homeless problems instead of this trivial piece of nothing.

  • 1. The point here is that Tilghman didn’t use the word because the conversation was about someone with African-American blood. She would have used the same phrase if it was a white guy who was the World #1. To suggest that Tilghman used the word ‘lynch’ because Tiger has black blood is beyond stupidity – i’s a malicious twisting of the truth.

    2. The Rev. Al and others who have jumped all over this do another disservice to the cause of racial equality in North America, by focusing attention on a trivial mistake when the real issues get swept under the table. Seen a rap/hip-hop video lately? Gone to a secondary school in Ontario and seen all the kids (white,black, male, female) emulating that behaviour?

  • Hey people… cut some slack here huh?…..suspended for that.. what the heck is going on in this world anyhow.. Ms Tilghman works the broadcast very will with her co-host… I miss her and was appalled to hear of the suspension… I am totally sure that Tiger Woods would not agree on such small minded action… Racist… I think not.. what’s the matter with this world anyhow. This Rev , whoever he is , is totally out of line. Seems just out to get someone or hanging in the bush just waiting for a chance to cry foul… Man. This is so petty. The Golf channel jumping onthis non issue and not supporting one of their own is a disgrace.. A total disgrace…. What about all those thousands of fans of Ms Tilghman who are offended… Don’t we count.. Is this another one of those one sided decisions to feign pilitical correctness… Get with the program people… we the viewers DO NOT need to be protected.. We can make up our own minds and DON’T need any help from you… The whole thing sickens me. lI truly hope Tiger wades into this almost non issue , as busy as he is and drops the word to the Golf Channel to re think this action.. Or…. maybe Tiger is just a bit afraid the Golf Channel will suspend him from ltheir broadcasts for two weeks… Hmmmmm… I don’t think so….

  • Just a further aside to this idiotic happening… After further reading some more comments I offer this up to the Golf Channel and ” those offended”. GET A LIFE PEOPLE. This is not a world shattering offence… nothing sinister was meant.. You people are so hung up ( not a Pun) on this racise issue…
    Lets just think of this… both countries , Mine, Canada , and the USA are overseas killing Iraqies and Afgans and such… Is this not at least as bad as this Racist thing that just keeps going on. I of course am ashamed of any involvement any of my ancestors might have had in the supressing of the Black Race.. But I didn’t do it… I simply can’t do anything about it… I simply treat everyone as equals… even those in Iraq and Afghanistan… Its not all of them… just some… Same thing here… for heaven’s sake lets stop banging on this thing… By way of example.. should I therefore hate all Muslims… of course not… It is a totally silly concept… and I refuse to be drawn into this fray…
    Again.. seeing Tiger over the years and just being in awe of his talents, would I expect him to carry on this way… I think not… There is a real man with a real talent.. A joy to watch and also a privelege to witness such a person in real time.. A hero to millions.. Think about it Golf Channel and Rev Al. ( whoever you are ) Would Tiger act this way… Of course not.. so bring this thing to a grinding halt, immediately, Kelly certainly does not deserve this, in the name of Racisim. How silly, really. Man this is so hard to take… Those of you out there as I said .. get a life… stop looking for anything to hang your hat on.. Sure happy Ms Tilghman didn’t make a comment that Tiger should be beheaded by a Muslim…to give others a chance to win a tourney… Can’t you just see it now…. HIGH Alert… Planes grounded.. Borders closed… Speeches from on High … sounds a little off huh? Drop it and get Ms Tilghman back where she belongs…. entertaining the Audience with Mr Faldo…

  • How does one find something that is utterly offensive and humilating to another hilarious? Just plead ignorance, and claim to be detached from those “words”. As if the words uttered themselves, and we do not give them meaning and context. Being beheaded by a Muslim is no better or worse than being lynched by a mob. Blacks (and Jews, and any other minorities) must forever be vigilant, as centuries of opression is not a faint memory, but one thought removed. Skinheads thrive in Europe, today. Society is in danger when ‘lynching ‘ moves into the sphere of light humor, for any victim of any hue.
    What she said is racist, whether she is the sweetest, most beautiful, uninformed woman in the world. Ignorance is no defence.

  • what do people think of when they hear lynching?
    black people being hung…..

    these remarks didn’t come from nowhere, somewhere at some other time she has talked like this before and conciously or subconciously she thinks like this!

    if she wasn’t a racist then where did those thoughts come from? why did she continue to laugh after saying it? because in reality it doesn’t offend her…..and those are her values!

    she needs to be canned or booed off the network……

  • as per usual the head up ones ass reaction.get over’s time for words (as ever)to be taken in context.look out, pc person to the rescue.yawn.

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