Tiger Woods: As Socially Responsible As He Wants To Be

By: Jack Goode

Unlike many other sports superstars Tiger Woods has never been a man to surround himself in controversy. He's not out late with the paparazzi following him. He's not shedding tears on national television over other players. He is not giving his opinions on Tom Cruise or Britney Spears to tabloids and he is certainly not giving opinions on race relations in professional golf or otherwise.

Woods has never been especially vocal about his opinions on anything other than the game of golf. In fact, while he is on the brink of making history at the Buick Invitational, Woods remains an enigma to many that regard him as a cultural icon who could make a bigger impact on social issues.

In the past few weeks Woods has been subjected to close scrutiny by both the media and by other celebs in light of some culturally insensitive "lynch" remarks made by Golf Channel anchor Kelly Tilghman and also by the recent controversial "noose" cover of Golfweek magazine.

Woods seemed virtually unshaken by either incident and called the Tilghman remark a "non-issue." Much to the dismay of those waiting for a racial powder keg to explode Woods remained calm, composed and cool throughout both ordeals, pausing only to reflect publicly when prodded repeatedly through media pressure and outspoken sports commentators across the country.

Jim Brown, former professional African-American football star, stated that he thinks Woods should stand up for not only himself but for Black athletes in general but Woods isn't budging. He accepted an apology from Tilghman and said that the two are old friends and that he knows she did not mean anything harmful in her remarks.

Many like Brown have suggested that Woods could have done more to be socially responsible. Woods is fully aware of those that would have him be a champion of racial injustices. He has stated before that he will not go down that road and feels the so-called controversy regarding his stance on racial issues in modern golf is media-driven.

People forget that Woods is only part African-American and that while he is fully famous he has never been an outspoken individual on any kind of issues other than those that directly affect his swing. They forget that just because he's a superstar, he never signed up to be anyone's political mouthpiece. He has and always will be a classy gentleman who tends to let the media crash and burn in their own controversies.

In this instance Woods handled the situation both professionally and with poise. It's a no-brainer that what Kelly Tilghman said was deplorable or that the cover of Golfweek was distasteful. Anyone can see that. There was no need to be melodramatic about it because in the end, it all worked itself out, minus any protests, boycotts or visits from the Reverend Al Sharpton. Woods handled the incident like a man, albeit a quiet one. Above all he handled it with class.

Woods knows all too well that incidents of a racial nature only derive their power from fear, ignorance and undying media attention. Woods doesn't have to speak out against the absurdity of the media using words like "lynch" or putting nooses on the covers of glossy magazines - they are absurd enough on their own.

Woods is like any other sports superstar who is paid massive sums of money from sponsors to uphold a certain image. People in that world generally do not support social issues. Were Woods not African-American would there be such pressure to make a stand? Certainly Jack Nicklaus was never asked to speak out against racial injustices in the golf world, so why Tiger?

Woods is no stranger to influence or power, especially in the universe of professional golf. Certainly, had he pressed the issue, Kelly Tilghman would be fired. Regardless of what people outside the world of golf think of him he is as socially responsible as he needs to be. He has often referred to his foundation and work with children as being very socially responsible and important to him. The Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim has reached a little over 16,000 kids in just two years and to Tiger, that's what matters most.

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