A Lynching Of Tiger Woods’ Name?

By Gordon Jackson
Updated: January 19, 2008

DALLAS — Unsportsmanlike conduct had to be called once again in the name of insensitivity toward the Black community, this time, in golf.

Kelly Tilghman, an anchor on the Golf Channel, during her Jan. 4 broadcast of the Mercedes-Benz Championship with former golfer Nick Faldo, suggested while discussing Tiger Woods’ clear dominance on the golf tour, that young players on the PGA Tour should “lynch him in a back alley.”

The statement is being compared to Don Imus’ disparaging remarks last spring on the Rutgers women’s basketball team.

Tilghman was suspended for two weeks. The Golf Channel released a statement saying, “There is simply no place on our network for offensive language like this.”

“While we believe that Kelly’s choice of words was inadvertent and that she did not intend them in an offensive manner, the words were hurtful and grossly inappropriate.”

Tilghman herself apologized to the network and to Woods personally. The incident was given added attention when civil rights activist Al Sharpton spoke about it on CNN.

“If I got on this show and said I wanted to put some Jewish-American in a gas chamber, I don’t care what context I said it in, the entire Jewish community would have the right to say I should be put off this show or my radio show, if I said it there,” Sharpton said.

“Or if I said I wanted to see a woman raped. This is an insult to all Blacks. Lynching is not murder in general; it is not assault in general. It is a specific racial term.”

Mark Steinberg, Woods’ agent, released a statement saying the matter is a “non-issue” adding that Woods and Tilghman are friends. This matter has thus far been handled and discussed in both right and wrong measures.

As it was talked about in local sports radio stations, the core of the discussion got lost and misdirected through an opportunity to attack the professional character of Sharpton and fellow civil rights activist Jesse Jackson on whether or not they are “race pimps” or opportunists when it comes to racially charged incidents.

Regardless of the level of truth or fallacy of such claims, that is a non-issue in regards to Tilghman’s remarks and the issue does not change the seriousness of what she said.

As they say, that’s another talk show. Sharpton was right to make sure this issue stayed above the radar.

However, with all due respect to Sharpton’s contributions to the Black community – much of what does not get into the mainstream headlines, – his call to fire Tilghman is too extreme, from my perspective.

She knew of her mistake and had already apologized to Woods and the network. The two-week suspension suffices in this case.

That’s because, in terms of cases like these, punishment is not necessarily the answer; education is. This incident should be put behind us, but not without a serious history lesson being taught.

That’s why Tilghman shouldn’t have been let off the hook. Even if she had said that the young PGA players should “beat” Tiger “in the back alley,” the statement would have easily been dismissed as what it was probably meant to be, a humorous jab as to how to quell Woods’ obvious dominance on the professional golf tour, then it would have probably been forgotten.

That one word — “lynch” — was what got her in trouble.

It’s perplexing to understand why evading the use of the word was not in Tilghman’s conscious. News reports this past year, like that of the Jena 6, have put the issue of nooses and lynching back on the surface of American society.

Any novice news watcher should have known how such words and concepts are insensitive to the African American community.

A lynching scene in the highly acclaimed movie, The Great Debaters, has also brought such horrid practices to the forefront.

What would help get the message across more effectively in this matter would have been a stronger response from Woods, who, once again, chose to call it a non-issue, according to his agent.

Had Tilghman or the Golf Channel not chosen to apologize, would Woods have spoken up? Further, if Tiger and Kelly are friends, did this serve as a relaxed excuse for Tilghman to use the word?

Knowing that Tiger is of African descent, why did she still use it?

As much as Tiger is loved by all people, regardless of race, this may serve as a gauge of his level of consciousness. In honor of the clear racial obstacles he had to battle early in his life, plus what his late father endured to groom him for where he is now, he clearly should care about what happened.

Is Woods’ African side one that he embraces or just tolerates? With him making most of his opportunities on the backs of pioneering golfers like Charles Sifford, Lee Elder, Calvin Peete and others, we hope it’s the former.