Don’t you think Tiger Woods deserves a little respect? I do.
Most of the golfing world does. He has elevated the sport to levels previously thought unreachable. No one can dispute the impact that Woods has had on the game of golf over the past six years. No one can deny that his skill, talent and overall charisma have made him the most high-profile athlete-spokesman since Michael Jordan.
Yet a recent editorial in The New York Times and Tuesday’s Yale Daily News column by Caroline Nathan (“It’s time for Woods to take a stand”) have asked, and in fact demanded, that Tiger Woods boycott this year’s Masters Tournament at the Augusta National Country Club because the Club does not allow women to become members.
In demanding Tiger Woods, and only Tiger Woods, to boycott this tournament, Nathan has employed a veritable case of reverse racism. Sure, Tiger Woods is the best player in his sport, and is by far the most recognizable. But how morally sound is it for Nathan and The New York Times to single out Woods as the person who can best champion women’s rights at Augusta?
Why not ask Vijay Singh, perhaps Jose Maria Olazabal, or even Mark O’Meara, all past Masters champions, to join the cause, rather than isolating Woods. Why can’t all three of these men, who come from different ethnic backgrounds, act as a proponent of the cause? Why does the only spokesperson from the tour have to be a young African-American? Wouldn’t it make more sense to have other golfers work alongside Tiger?
In fact, Tiger’s responses to the Augusta question do not demonstrate qualities indicative of the confident spokesperson that Nathan and others hope Tiger will be. Instead, Tiger is a person who seems confused and irritated by all of the hype that has surrounded his statements on Augusta during the past few weeks.
“I think there should be women members,” Woods said recently. “But it’s not up to me. I don’t have voting rights, I’m just an honorary member.”
On one hand, Tiger would like to see women members at Augusta, but on the other hand, he obviously does not want to place himself at the center of the swirling storm of controversy that surrounds the issue.
Even some opponents of Augusta’s membership policies think that those who have singled out Woods have done so inappropriately. Jesse Jackson, whose Rainbow/PUSH Coalition will be protesting the tournament, called the New York Times editorial “unfair and inconsistent” in an Associated Press interview.
It seems that the price of becoming a prominent athlete these days has become so great that when one does not have a strong stance on any particular subject, many will be offended. Nathan states, in response to Woods’ noncommittal attitude, “Well Tiger, that’s not enough.” I would like to ask Ms. Nathan, “What is enough, then, for Woods?” He has single-handedly resurrected nationwide interest in his sport, while at the same time influencing America’s youth to pick up clubs and go to the driving range.
Charles Barkley once said that he didn’t want to be seen as a role model. As much or as little as Tiger Woods enjoys the fact that he is a very prominent role model, every model has his or her limits. Those who are calling on Tiger to take a stand against Augusta need to respect those limits. Do you think that Tiger would rather be practicing his driving and chipping, or answering question upon question about the status of women’s rights in the United States today?
Give him a break. Let him play golf. Just as the average American has the freedom to pick a position on Augusta’s decision to exclude women from its membership, Tiger Woods also has the right to not become involved in this controversy alone without any support.