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.