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.