Although I have little interest in Tiger Woods and less in the sport of golf, there was an interesting story surrounding him in the paper today.
Apparently he is being called upon by civil-rights campaigners to take a stand regarding the policy at Augusta National that only men can be members. The policy strikes me as equally (and very) anachronistic, silly, and inexcusable. Tiger’s comments are interesting.
In his most extensive comments on the Augusta’s membership, Mr. Woods rejected the suggestion that he steers clear of political controversy for fear it will harm his corporate interests or affect his income from endorsements. “There’s no validity to that at all,” he said. “I’ll say what I believe, but I’ll choose when.”
Then Mr. Woods took his cap off and rubbed his forehead in frustration.
“I’m also trying to win tournaments here,” he said. “Do people understand that?”
Fair enough. He’s an athlete (if you call golf “athletic”).
But he also said “It would be nice to see everyone have an equal chance to participate, but there is nothing you can do about it.”
Now, I don’t know much about the whole power structure of the pro-golf world. Perhaps he doesn’t have as much pull as I imagine he does. But I suspect he’s being either naïve or disingenuous when he says that. I get the impression he has a huge amount of clout in the golf world, and that if he said “I cannot in good conscience play golf at a club with such blatantly unfair policies,” the board members at Augusta National would convene an emergency session and reverse their policy fast enough to give us all whiplash. The only way these things change is when people “do something about it.”
But there are other interesting issues at work. Tiger Woods, simply because of the circumstances of his birth, attracts issues like this that no other golfer does.
Mr. Woods smiled when he was asked if he thought it unfair that he constantly heard the question of whether women should be admitted to Augusta National, especially since legendary white golfers like Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus who are members of Augusta National are seldom asked about it.
Forget about race for a moment. Tiger Woods is basically an entertainer. He’s got a lot of exposure, money, and public support. Does that mean that he is obliged to be politically outspoken? A role model? It’s not clear to me that we should put that freight on our entertainers, and frankly, it can get pretty tedious when they assume that mantle anyhow.