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Tiger: A leader at making "outrageous amounts of money"

Tom English at the Scotsman has an intriguing and controversial takeon the Tiger Woods and Kelly Tilghman affair. He’s exceptionally critical of Woods’ silence on this and other racial issues, saying the golfer is really only interested in one thing — making money and keeping a squeaky clean image for his sponsors. If that means not commenting on racial issues, English says, than so be it.

But English isn’t cutting him any slack for it, especially given Earl Woods’ pronouncements a decade ago that his son would have a profound effect on the world. Maybe a profound effect for Nike, but it isn’t hard to agree with English when you consider the state of golf:

The alarming thing, though, is that in the 1970s, when Ali and others were railing against injustices, there were more African-American golfers on the pro-tour in America than there are now. There were ten back then, all discriminated against, but they existed. Apart from Tiger no other African-American has held a PGA tour card since 1998 and there is only one on the Nationwide tour, and less than a handful on the Hooters tour. There is not one African-American in any top 20 college programme at the moment.

Some of this has been laid at Tiger’s door, as if it is his fault somehow. But it would be nice to hear Tiger’s thoughts on why no other African-Americans have come through in the near 11 years since he won his first major. But he doesn’t like going into these areas. Once the Tilghman story blew up it would have done a lot of good had Tiger gone on air and explained why the word “lynch” is repugnant to him.

He didn’t have to slam Tilghman, he just had to put a social context on it. The influence the man could wield is enormous, after all. But that’s not Tiger’s thing. If it was then he’d have already spoken about the discrimination he suffered in his early years. When he was a ten-year-old, Woods joined the Navy club in California and was given a hard time there by some of the members who could never come to terms with his skin colour. He hasn’t ever spoken about that.

English’s conclusion on Woods is harsh, but probably accurate:

He’ll probably beat Nicklaus’ record but as far as being a leader anywhere else but in the majors and in the business of making outrageous amounts of money both for himself and for his fellow pros, I think we can forget it.

And English isn’t the only one with this perspective– Farrel Evans at SI, a black sportswriter, also had a similar take in reference to the Lynchgate scandal:

Why didn’t Woods take offence? Maybe it was because last week also brought news that Woods made an estimated $100m in endorsements in 2007, an income derived from his stature as the brightest star in the largely white, corporate-friendly world of golf and not as a minority agitating for social justice¦ Woods doesn’t have to become a civil-rights spokesman, but he could have at least acknowledged that he understands the meaning of the word, and how powerful and hurtful it remains. In other words, wouldn’t it be nice if for once Woods saw himself as the heir not only to Jack Nicklaus but also to Jackie Robinson?

The truth is that Woods may have been telling the truth when he said the issue wasn’t a big deal to him. But to those that watch the game, it was an opportunity to make some sort of statement — one Woods is apparently not prepared to make. At the very least one might have thought Woods would have become more vocal on attempting to bring more minorities to the game — but even that hasn’t happened, as Calvin Peete pointed out when I interviewed him last summer.

I’m not as hardline on this matter as English and Evans — I don’t think Woods has a responsibility to do anything he doesn’t want to do. However, it would be interesting to see the impact if he did decide to make this an issue that he was prepared to champion.

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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.

26 CommentsLeave a comment

  • RT,

    Clearly between your posts on this blog and on Geoff Shackelford’s you are a Tiger hater and look for any sliver of an opportunity to trash him. Don’t even try to deny it.

    On further thought, you’re pretty negative in general. Ask Mike Weir, The Golf Channel, Graham Cooke.

  • You’re right on Graham Cooke and the Golf Channel, not so much on Mike Weir. As for comments on Geoff’s site, I actually don’t comment on it — truthfully there is another Robert Thompson out there who posts on his site. Not that it matters, but just to be clear.

    As for ‘trashing” Tiger, if that’s what you think I’ve done, then you missed the point of the discussion.

    Strange, you never used to be this negative in all of your comments — either under the Not Ken banner or the Figjam moniker. Now you are pretty decidedly set against anything I post.

  • RT,

    Your collective posts on Tiger lead me to conclude you are a Tiger basher. I’ve seen enough bashers to know one.

    I stand corrected re Shackelford’s site.

    Not true re the rest of your posts. I actually think your golf course reviews are very good. No one else does them, at least with the courses I play. When I compare your thoughts on courses that I’ve played, I think you make solid points. I disagree with your criticism on Graham Cooke courses but don’t have any real issue with that.

    Your commentary on the pro golf scene however is as misguided as the rest of the Canadian golf media (Lorne Rubenstein excepted).

  • My perspective is that for the time being, Tiger is comfortable being a golfer, a father, and a husband. He is a very young man and I don’t think he has a duty to anybody except himself and his family. He has only been a father and husband for a very short time, so the little time he has should be directed towards hsi family. He has done some very interesting things with his Foundation, so let’s let his social conscience evolve. His mission in life is to break Nicklaus’ major records. Let’s let him march toward that feat. After he has accomplished that and has climbed that mountain, he may (or may not) look toward other missions in life. Those that are critical of Tiger surely don’t understand just how much energy and resources it takes to maintain his absolute competitive edge. It isn’t a part time job. In other words, there is no endless supply of Tiger for everything. Tiger knows Tiger and this is his life, and he is a remarkable human being and let’s enjoy his accomplishments and stop being overly critical of him. At least he has not taken the nasty road that so many high priced athletes have taken. He remains skeaky clean, and there is certainly nothing wrong with that. Those that are critical really don’t understand the fine balance that surely Tiger lives and manages.

  • Another perspective: Finally someone has seen the light!! Why do people think that athletes are somehow obligated to take a stand on global issues? Tiger is a golfer, not a political rights activist, who cares what he thinks about different issues? Just keep playing great golf, if he wanted to say something about the different issues, he would. Let’s not forget why he is on TV, for golf. As for RT and the Tiger bashing,I think there is some truth, but my personal favourite thing about Rt is how he thinks he knows so much about golf course architecture and can just sit back and criticize different designers without knowing why a certain hole was built that way, instead of how he thinks it should have been done. Maybe RT should put in some time on a site building a course or in an office with a set of drawings to see the process, not just playing it and criticizing certain ideas that might have been done for a variety of reasons. From what I’ve heard though he is an armchair architect like the rest who knows a few buzzwords like “shot values” and ” on grade”. When he pays his dues in this field he’ll be taken seriously.

  • Wayne and Not a Ken: Explain to me where I “bashed” Tiger? Strikes me I was just making comment on an article written by another writer that I found interesting.

    In fact, I don’t think you are reading carefully, when I said: “I’m not as hardline on this matter as English and Evans — I don’t think Woods has a responsibility to do anything he doesn’t want to do.”

    If that’s “bashing,” I guess I’ll be more gentle next time.

  • Tiger has no obligation to change the world. However, when you make an advertisement talking about how “there are certain courses I can’t play because of the colour of my skin”, you are positioning yourself as one who (rightly) seeks to confront injustices. You are also cashing in on this positioning.

    Ten years later, when you are richer than God and don’t seem to care about such injustices, people are going to gripe. Earl didn’t do him any favours with the Ghandi comparison.

  • I am sure I heard one of the colour guys[WHOOPS –ANNOUNCERS] say “Tiger will have to fall off a cliff to lose”. WOW,sounds like another racial comment to me,this should bring out the political correct nitwits again

  • I’d like to know if the richest man in the world, Bill Gate have stepped up to speaking out about social injustice or any other worthy causes while he was in charge of Microsoft. He has the Bill and Melinda Foundation now, but that is pretty much after he retired from the business.

    One of the most difficult things for sports journalists like Tom English and Farrel Evan to do is to exercise restraint when they are in the mood of writing pseudo political views. They really should stick to the topic they know well.

  • There is desire for Tiger to say more because he is in a unique position to influence people. He’s just a golfer, but he’s the only golfer with the rare potential to change an undesirable status quo that transcends his sport, and sport in general. Phil Mickelson does not have this potential. Vijay Singh does not have this potential. Michael Jordan did not have this potential.

    Should we be hard on Tiger for not taking a historic opportunity? Probably not – it’s his life, and sure, his position might evolve. But is it fair to at least note that he appears to be missing an unusual opportunity? I think so. Unless your interest in sports is just the results, in which case you should probably go straight to the agate page.

    No, he doesn’t have time for everything, but he does have choices about how he uses his time. At the moment, he spends a great deal of his spare time selling himself to us. You don’t have to be a Tiger-basher to notice that.

  • Why does Tiger need to be a spokesperson for anything but his golf? Guy says that Michael Jordan didn’t have a similar opportunity? Are you kidding me? Basketball, certainly not golf, is arguably the number two sport in the world, and Michael Jordan was the biggest player on that stage. Yet Guy gives Jordan a free pass and dumps on Tiger. I would argue that Michael’s platform was much wider than Tiger’s. Basketball is a world wide sport, and I would argue that golf’s appeal is much narrower, yet Jordan gets a free pass and Tiger needs to be the mesiah for social change. Give me a break. Anybody who believes this is just trying to find fault in the poor (rich?) guy. Tiger does a lot with his Foundation, introducing the sport to the masses. If that is all he wants to do, there is certainly nothing wrong with that. There are enough guys on the media preaching this and that….enough already. Let’s enjoy this very extrordinary human being and stop the carping. The man should get our respect for what he accomplishes, and not for what YOU think he should be accomplishing.

  • What would Michael Jordan have spoken up about? The poor shake black men get in the NBA? He was an exceptional talent with absolutely zero potential societal significance beyond basketball and shoe marketing.

    Woods has a completely different opportunity. Quite possibly the most talented player ever. A multiracial superstar in the most whitebread sport in history. A hyper-intelligent modern player who out-thinks and out-executes every player in the field, year after year.

    Did you even read what I wrote before posting your harangue? I said we have no right to criticize how he lives his life, but every right to wonder what could (not should) be – and unlike you, I said it in a reasoned, calm tone of voice.

  • I seem to recall their being an issue with one of Nike supplier’s use of child labour in Asia for some of the Nike clothing and Michael Jordan had an opportunity to deal with this issue…cannot recall what he did but there was clearly an opportunity to leverage his platform on that issue.

    Tiger has an opportunity to leverage his status to deal with social issues. He is not obliged but imagine his image if he successfully took a stand while maintaining his corporate sponsorships and relationships. Now there would be something special and I would not put it past Tiger to accomplish it. Again, an opportunity lost by Tiger to only cater to his monied sponsorship relationships…his learning centre and Tiger foundation notwithstanding.

  • As far as Woods and Jordan go, if any one of us were in the same position, we would do the same thing. Woods concentrates on being the best golfer, besides, how do we know what goes on in his private life. If he always craves his privacy, he could be very active on several issues and chooses to keep it quiet. I personally don’t want Tiger to get involved in different issues, I want to see him play golf. I think playing at the level he plays at takes up alot of his time, its his choice, I don’t think he gives a rats ass what the sports writers and golf nuts think of him. Just because he’s famous doesn’t mean he should voice his opinion on any issue. The one thing that nobody has mentioned is, what if he voiced his opinion on the Lynchgate thing and said ” Big Deal, Who cares”, there would be an uproar if he didn’t agree with the all the opinion givers. After all he has said nothing and he’s getting grilled for it.

  • Would we ask a civil rights leader to play PGA Tour golf? Would we be critical if he didn’t try? Why then does the opposite not hold. Why does the PGA Tour’s biggest draw have to be a leader on civil rights? Isn’t it enough to the world that he is an extraordinary performer? Why does he have to be more? Perhaps, he is an extraordinary performer precisely because his mind is focused and clear of clutter. Go Tiger. Let the legend grow. Forget about your critics. Just do it.

  • Just do it – fitting statement.

    Complain about injustice when Nike pays you, but don’t ever take a stand on anything. Talk about selective principles.

  • Tighthead,

    Valid point re Nike if Tiger did nothing at all.

    He does his part through other channels (his foundation), instead of calling out people like Zoeller, Imus, Tilghman.

    Hard to say which is a more productive approach isn’t it???

  • Another Perspective Not Much Different Than The Other Pseudonyms:

    Nelson Mandela could practise seven days a week and never break 90. Tiger Woods could affect America’s perspective on racism in about 15 seconds by making a bold statement at the right time. Do you *really* not see the difference in ability and consequence?

  • Not a ken – his foundation does good work, but I wouldn’t say that it fights injustice. It is not about which is more productive. It is about whether you speak out and stand for something when Nike isn’t paying the freight.

  • I think it’s fine that Tiger chooses not to makes all his opinions known. I have been for years sickened by our propensity to take far too seriously everything every celebrity or athlete feels they need to share. Just because they can act or perform does not make them social commentators. In fact fame gives some of them a pulpit for their opinions which they clearly have not earned with their intelligence. Tom Cruise is one fine example, mediocre actor, even more mediocre religion. Shut-up, please!
    Clarence Page was not granted a educated opinion because he could hit a golf ball, he earned it.
    I just want Tiger to hit a golf ball, thank-you. I frankly do not care what he thinks about medicare, abortion or Rodney King.
    Great player and a bigger, albeit different type of influence on society than some people would like.
    Kerry

  • Interesting discussion.

    GolfObserver.com linked to this article last week and I thought it was one of the better ones I had read and echoes a lot of the well thought out comments that various people have made here.

    http://www.sun-sentinel.com/sports/golf/sfl-flspmell24sbjan24,0,7733508.column?coll=sofla_sports_golf_util

    Though I may not always agree with RT on his thoughts, opinions, and observances, I have never put him in the camp of Tiger hater.

  • Kerry:

    I think you missed the point. For those who think Tiger should take a stand on social issues (like myself), I prefer he speak out on issues that affect him…and those like him. Lynchgate is a typical example where the underlying issue was racism, an issue where he could speak from a personal perspective and provide commentary on the broader topic.

    I would not expect nor necessarily want Tiger to speak about any issue he chooses, like medicare or abortion – two topics with which Tiger likely has had little personal experience (although in fairness we do not know for sure).

  • not sure why the mellonheads want Tiger to change the world. I can imagine them spraying mellon juice all over these pages if he DID start spouting off on social issues…like, what makes HIM an authority? Personally, I think he has it right…he’s a golfer, so he golfs. The “good works” he does are done out of the limelight, generally, and he’s not prone to public yapping like an Ames or Mickelson. When he DOES get miffed, at, say, Zoeller for his insensitive comments, everyone gets bent out of shape because he doesn’t rush over and give Fuzzy a public hug. Leave him alone..he’s a golfer, not the Saviour.

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