Tiger Woods’ so-called February 20 “apology” ran true to form and failed to make the cut. Presented in a controlled environment, the golfer “confessed” in front of a stacked audience and refused to take any questions from reporters. Woods took a swing at the media, bashing paparazzi for allegedly stalking his children — although I don’t remember him complaining when the purported billionaire used his wife and kids as props to burnish his family friendly image in previous propaganda, when it was advantageous for him to do so. Tiger also held his one-sided press event as a major golf tournament began, deflecting attention away from it, thus teeing off some fellow players in the sport Woods has already harmed.
Lots of people are surprised by Tiger Woods’ scandal. Oh really? Unlike a certain other multi-racial American, Woods didn’t exactly become a community organizer and enter public service. And unlike Jackie Robinson, Tiger didn’t exactly seek to desegregate a proletarian team sport. Woods sought fame and fortune in one of the world’s most elitist, individualistic sports, and his behavior has always, or almost always, been selfish and self-serving. (Local and indigenous activists in Hawaii oppose water gobbling golf courses, especially on Native land, with the slogan: “No can eat golf balls.”)
Remember in 1997 when Oprah Winfrey asked Tiger on her show if it bothered him to be called “Black” and Woods said: “It does. Growing up, I came up with this name. I’m a ‘Cablinasian.’” And remember after race traitor – uh, I mean Tiger — won his first Masters Tournament in 1997 and golfer Fuzzy Zoeller referred to Woods as “that little boy” and urged him not to ask for “fried chicken … or collard greens” at the next year’s Champions Dinner when Woods would get to decide the menu. What did Tiger do? Did he put on a black glove and make the “Black power” clenched fist salute like those African-American athletes at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico?
No – Uncle Tiger met the cracker and ate lunch at the Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth. Then Uncle Tiger said: “We had a nice lunch today [and] a nice conversation and I found out a few things I needed to know. I told him how I felt and, hopefully, all of that is over and we can both go out and have a good tournament. Over time I think we will all see that it’s an incident that was good for golf.” Sure – just like lynching was good bobsledding.
Oh yeah, speaking of “lynching,” remember in 2008, when The Golf Channel’s Kelly Tilghman (not to be confused with Emmett Till) said on live TV that young golfers on the PGA Tour might have to “lynch Tiger in a back alley”? Reverend Al Sharpton called for the anchorwoman to be fired. But not Uncle Tiger. What did he do? Did he march or picket like Martin Luther King? No – his agent (!) issued a statement declaring: “This story is a non-issue. Tiger and Kelly are friends and Tiger has a great deal of respect for Kelly. Regardless of the choice of words used we know unequivocally that there was no ill-intent in her comments. This story is a non-issue in our eyes. Case closed.” (Sticks and stones…) And when Uncle Tiger tied the knot, did he marry a Black or Thai woman? No – he didn’t even wed an American white woman. He married the Aryan ideal: a blonde Swedish model.
Tiger Woods is a young, handsome, wealthy athlete with a history of being self-serving. Although I have admittedly not investigated Tiger’s ties to charities, I would be genuinely shocked if they weren’t calculated to enhance his image and to positively impact on his taxes. The only thing this selfish guy ever integrated was a Republican sport and country clubs. You think a man like this isn’t going to cheat on his wife every chance he gets? Get real.
I sympathize with those who say that Woods should not apologize to the public, but only to his family and friends (and the women he had dalliances with) for private behavior. However, Woods’ public image as a clean cut husband and father was a bill of family values goods sold in order to further his profitability, power and high recognition factor. It also provided a convenient persona that enabled him to cover-up his deceptions.
But there is a missing link, another group who, arguably more than any other, the athlete needs to say he’s sorry to. The world’s most famous athlete hasn’t shown good sportsmanship to Blacks, whom he has slighted, time and again, with a clearly consistent pattern of (mis)behavior. Tiger has done to African Americans what he has allegedly done to all those mistresses. Of course, given the low journalistic standards of most media, Woods’ sexual shenanigans are obsessed over on the public air waves, cable, etc., while his consistent slighting of Blacks goes unreported and not commented upon. This is typical of media coverage and reminiscent of the nonstop print/cable/broadcast barrage over President Clinton’s sex life, while his signing of a bill taking free school lunches away from poor children was barely noticed (except by Children’s Defense Fund President Marian Wright Edelman, and, but of course, by those hungry kids).
Fair play demands that if Woods is sincere about doing a mea culpa, he should start by apologizing to African Americans for his record of turning his back on them in his unbridled, selfish pursuit of money, glory and sexual gratification by currying favor with the dominant majority culture. That’s a far bigger scandal than his purported dalliances. Until he makes amends to Blacks, Tiger Woods has muffed his apology and needs a mulligan.
Ed Rampell is an L.A.-based freelance writer and author of Progressive Hollywood, A People’s Film History of the United States.