Tilghman and Golfweek

The Kelly Tilghman debate continues, with Golfweeks’ cover story on[photopress:hangman.jpg,full,alignright] Lynchgate gathering a lot of attention. The issue is interesting, partially because in a Golfweek editorial the magazine admits most readers of the publication think the whole lynch Tiger debacle has been overdone, but that it went forward with it anyway because it was “news”:

Outside the microcosm of golf, however, the public isnt so forgiving.

Thats why Golf Channel, Comcast and the PGA Tour expect a highly paid and high-profile personality such as Tilghman to have the presence of mind, experience and intellect to know the difference between clever and offensive.

Tilghman didnt. Like it or not, that was news.

Also worth a note is the notion that the “good” Rev. Al Sharpton saw this as an issue he could champion, though he had little knowledge of any of the details of the actual verbal slip and someone in his camp thought Tilghman was a man:

At that point, the viral nature of the Web began to kick in. A Jan. 8 blog on took Tilghman to task, prompting a flurry of user commentary. Word of the controversy soon reached Sharpton, who seized the opportunity to vilify Tilghman “ referred to as him in a press release put out by Sharptons camp “ on CNN. Ninety minutes later, Golf Channel announced Tilghmans suspension. (Asked if the network had caved in to Sharptons pressure, a Golf Channel spokesman said disciplinary action had been in the works well before his CNN appearance.)

But perhaps more controversial than anything in the actual editorial or feature was Golfweek’s cover, featuring a noose. CBS Sports writer Steve Elling asksan important question — did Golfweek demonstrate less judgment than Tilghman?

Let’s see a show of e-mail hands.

Is this worse than the original offense?

Elling’s take was trumpeted by none other than Tim Finchem himself, who apparently just wants the issue of Tilghman’s remarks to disappear like Tiger in the first round of the FedEx Cup:

“Clearly, what Kelly said was inappropriate and unfortunate and she obviously regrets her choice of words, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said in a statement Wednesday. “But we consider Golfweek’s imagery of a swinging noose on its cover to be outrageous and irresponsible. It smacks of tabloid journalism. It was a naked attempt to inflame and keep alive an incident that was heading to an appropriate conclusion.”

Frankly, I don’t have much of an issue with the Golfweek cover. Magazines and newspapers have the right to be provocative. Design editors at magazines tend to love stories like this one that can be illustrated in an unusual way. They can be maddening, but they are designed to draw the reader in. The cover is surely more interesting than the accompanying story, which offers little insight beyond the fact the Golf Channel bowed to Sharpton’s public posturing, and that the owner of the channel, media giant Comcast, might fire Tilghman upon her return:

As of Jan. 14, Tilghman was slated to resume her duties 10 days later for the first round of the Buick Invitational. However, there had been conjecture by Golf Channel insiders that Comcast will order Tilghman fired before her suspension is up and that fill-in Rich Lerner will take over permanently. Tilghman, 38, who has risen through the ranks in 11-plus years at Golf Channel, also could be assigned to other duties. Before taking on anchor duties for Tour telecasts, Tilghman was a host of Golf Channels Golf Central nightly news show.

Once again, I’ll say this — Tilghman’s remark was unfortunate. She likely didn’t mean it in a hurtful way and Tiger Woods probably saw it as a joke. But it showed terrible judgement on her part and brings into question her work on live television, which is her main occupation. She should be turfed in the end not because of the remark on its own, but because in more than a year on air she has demonstrated little warmth or depth, coming across as a stiff teleprompter jockey.

Update: Newsday has an interesting take on the whole Lynchgate affair:

There’s some things to consider in these situations before we weigh our reaction.

One: Does she have an Imus-like history of being a racist nitwit? Not to anyone’s knowledge.

Two: Is she in a position of authority in which she hires and fires and dictates company policy? No, she talks about birdies and bogeys.

Three: Did she apologize? Yes, personally to Tiger, then on the air.

Four: Was she punished? Two weeks without pay, with public shame.

Five: Tiger’s take? He didn’t take it all that seriously.

Given all of the above, Tilghman got what she deserved, and after this latest (but not last) sensitivity training course, maybe we can all move on.

I’m beginning to think this may be the best bet — let Tilghman try to salvage her career at the Golf Channel with this cloud not sitting over her head, but disappearing on the horizon. Maybe she should get a second chance. Sure her judgment was questionable, but Faldo laughed at her remark and no one seems to be taking issue with that.

Beyond that, listening to Rich Lerner try to engage with Faldo tonight at the Bob Hope was painful. Everyone pins it on the anchor, but I’m starting to wonder whether it is Faldo that doesn’t work.

Shaun Powell, Newsday’s sports columnist, isn’t as kind to Golfweek:

Tilghman didn’t have time to think before she put her 5-iron in her mouth. Golfweek, on the other hand, thought long and hard, according to its editor, to come up with the perfect image to go with its Tilghman story. If so, then everyone who thought a noose was OK should be fired for being incompetent and insensitive.

Of course, you can imagine how many people of color were in the board room when the noose picture made its way around the Golfweek conference table. My guess? There are more blacks on the PGA tour than in power at the magazine.

The creative geniuses at Golfweek should’ve taken their cue from Tiger, whose reaction probably was best, all things considered. He declared the case closed and left a no-win situation, well, hanging.

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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.

12 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Now I see why Britney couldn’t attend court, Don wasn’t on the radio, and crackhead Willy wasn’t on the corner…they all joined Golfweek’s editorial staff.

    Smart like golf tee.

  • Please sop the editorial rt. Just stick with reporting the scores. Even somebody as incapable as you can likely not screw that up. By the way, everyone in the golf industry laughs at you.

  • It’s unfortunate that Kelly used those terms during the conversation with Faldo about the youth coming up to take on Tiger….Kelly acts proffessionally on the telecasts, but I put some of the blame on Faldo himself…he has made what some may consider ” sexist” comments sometimes towards her…and she has lloked uncomfortable at times. I believe that Faldo is not a very good anchor…sure he does Ok on the national network telecasts, but he is more of a color commentary on that show….he doesn’t have to carry the broadcast. I say replace Faldo with Vince Cellini, and give Kelly another chance.

  • LOL!!

    Kelly is getting another chance Paul – her suspension is only for 2 weeks.

    Replace Nick Faldo with Vince Cellini???? LOL!! No thanks. I’ll take a multiple major winner who is coming into his own as an anchor very nicely over that piece of cardboard any day. Go back and watch some of the Big Breaks he hosted and you may change your mind on that one.

  • “Frankly, I don’t have much of an issue with the Golfweek cover.”

    Neither does the KKK and all you white supremacist rednecks.

    Speaking as one Caucasian to anther…. f*ck off racist.

  • Wow. David, I think your reaction is largely what is wrong with this issue. People have reacted more strongly to the Golfweek cover than they did to Tilghman’s actual comments.
    If that makes me a racist, then it would appear the term can be tossed around pretty lightly, and I think that really undervalues the actual issue.

  • Tilghman’s actual comments, when taken in context, were really a non-issue – which is exactly what Tiger called it: “a non-issue”, because he knows Kelly well and he knows what kind of person she is.

    The cover of Golfweek on the other hand took a fair amount of premeditation and was a predetermined effort to attract attention and sell magazines. I wouldn’t call the move to publish that cover racist, but I would certainly call it extremely fucking stupid.

  • Longdrive — that’s what magazines do — they provoke to sell magazines. No surprise, maybe not in good taste, but a firing offence?

  • I agree, not really something someone who is otherwise a good editor should lose their job over. Everything about this affair has been way way overblown.

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