Tiger Woods Deserves Your Scrutiny

During the Bill Clinton impeachment idiocy of 1998, many on the left said if Clinton were removed from office, let it be for gutting welfare or for imposing sanctions on Iraq, and not l'affair Lewinsky.


Today, Tiger Woods, the most famous, wealthy and most PR conscious athlete on earth, finally finds himself subject to scrutiny. But, similar to Clinton's scandal, it has more to do with his personal life than issues of substance. The media has staked-out his Isleworth home for round-the-clock coverage of a bizarre "car accident" involving his wife, a fire hydrant and a golf club that occurred this past week. The questions being posed are as breathless as they are weightless: "Were Tiger's facial lacerations the result of the car crash or an attack from his wife Elin?" "Is this about the rumored ‘other woman’ in New York City?" "Did Elin Woods smash the rear of his car with a golf club to rescue Tiger or was she smashing up the car as he pulled away?" One last question: who the hell cares? Granted, there is a "man bites dog" aspect to this story. In Woods's roughly fourteen years in the public eye, he has never even been caught littering. His image has been cemented as a man of ungodly intensity.


This squeaky-clean reputation has helped Woods become the richest athlete in history, the first billion-dollar man. His career course earnings are $92 million. Only when you factor in advertisements, corporate appearances and other off-course aspects of "Tiger Inc" does Woods reach billionaire status.


As the saying goes, behind every great fortune is a great crime.

Following his car "accident" Woods's agent said that it is unclear whether he will attend his foundation's Chevron World Challenge Golf Tournament. In 2008, Chevron entered a five-year relationship with Tiger Woods' foundation under the guise of philanthropy. But if Woods had a shred of social conscience, this partnership would never have existed. Lawsuits have been issued against Chevron for dumping toxic waste all over the planet. Alaska, Canada, Brazil, Angola and California have all accused Chevron of dumping. Even worse, Chevron has a partnership with Burma's ruling military junta on the country's Yadana gas pipeline project, the single greatest source of revenue for the military, estimated at nearly $5 billion since the year 2000.


Ka Hsaw Wa, co-founder and executive director of EarthRights International, wrote in an open letter to Woods, "I myself have spoken to victims of forced labor, rape, and torture on Chevron's pipeline--if you heard what they said to me, you too would understand how their tragic stories stand in stark contrast to Chevron's rhetoric about helping communities." Chevron is underwriting a dictatorship but Tiger Woods apparently sees them as upstanding corporate partners.


Then there is Dubai, the site of the first Tiger Woods-designed golf course. Located at the southern coast of the Persian Gulf, Dubai has been a symbol of both economic excess, and most recently, economic collapse. It has been called an "adult Disneyland"--complete with indoor ski resorts and unspeakable human rights violations. As Johann Hari wrote in The Independent, it is a city that has been built over the last thirty years by slave labor. Paid foreign laborers work in more than 100-degree heat for less than three dollars a day. Dubai also has a reputation as ground zero of the global sex trade. The Tiger Woods Golf Course cost $100 million and Woods said nary a word about his benefactor’s business practices. This is business as usual for Tiger who would sooner swallow a five-iron than take anything resembling a political stand.


Now that Woods appears to have been involved in a domestic dispute, the media is wondering if there is "another Tiger". They are desperate to pillory the man for his personal problems. It would be more appropriate if they took this opportunity to scrutinize him for the right reasons. Woods has every right to keep his personal problems personal. But when he makes deals that benefit dictatorships and unaccountable corporations, all in the name of his billion-dollar brand, he deserves no privacy.



[Dave Zirin is the author of “A People’s History of Sports in the United States” (The New Press) Receive his column every week by emailing dave@edgeofsports.com. Contact him at edgeofsports@gmail.com.]

25 Reader Comments | Add a comment

Great article!

I totally disagree with the 1st comment, which came from someone who thinks it's okay to substitute incorrect spelling and homophobic slurs for dialogue.

I thought this article was right on and was a much-needed antidote to the non-stop nonsense on the "news." Thanks, Dave!

To Colin

You're clearly a person of compromised values if you're willing to ignore the social responsibility of an athlete as a defacto role model while utilizing gay slurs cause it makes you feel better about yourself.

What about being a golf player and fan makes you the reasonable voice about the endorsement choices of Tiger Woods? This article is pointing out the hypocrisy of his carefully self-constructed image and the carelessness of his choices to get in bed with Chevron or any other high bidder without assessing their impacts in the larger community.

No one is questioning his ability as a golfer. Simply questioning his values as a human being.

Money, money, money, money

Dave, as always, I applaud you for trying to make a meaningful discussion out of the nonsense generated by mass media and the general public. Tiger's about to learn that there are two ways for "the media" to sell using his brand, by elevating him, or by tearing him down.

Tiger deserves the criticism you've directed at him, but how can "the media" take Tiger to task when they are whores for the same corporate dollars Tiger commands so successfully? When's the last time a media outlet turned down a corporate advertisement or sponsorship for ethical reasons?

Thanks for the insight.

Are there any athletes around (pro or amateur) that take a stance on anything political, social or moral? Ali Bill Russell, Jabbar all stood up and questioned at one time. Who's left? Carlos Delgado refusing to stand for God Bless America. Steve Nash wore a T shirt protesting the Iraq War awhile back.
The PGA is the worst. They call out Fuzzy Zoeller for his inappropriateness. Yet a few years before Eldrick's arrival, Jack Nicklaus is asked why there are no African Americans on tour, his response is some nonsense about musculature. Nicklaus gets a pass cause he's the Bear.


Tiger Woods is a golfer. If he doesnt want to discuss his politics that is his right.

Right on

Saw you on MSNBC tonight and delighted to hear some real insight on the issues at hand.


Hi. If people are confused about references to "Colin", he was the first poster for this column and as part of his vigorous defense of Tiger Woods, called me a "f-ggot". To be clear: feel free to disagree with what you read here at the top of your lungs, but if you traffic in racist, sexist, and homophobic slurs or if you threaten anyone with violence, your post will be removed.

Tiger Woods

This is a great piece, you nail it. There are so many stories about Tiger Woods since Tg wknd and none like this one.

Political slogans etc

Yeah, players who take stands.

My sport is soccer I'm from Liverpool UK.

A while back there was a thing about celebrating goals by reveals slogans on undershirts, along with more creative celebrations. I've read a couple of Dave's articles on the same subject, one on Kanoute, I think?

Of course, there had to be a new set of rules about it ushered in because god forbid politics mixes with sports. Today's governing bodies and owners vigorously manage their PR so not to offend anyone.

But who are they trying not to offend? It's funny, because, if you agree with something, not only are you not offended but you often don't identify it as 'political' or even notice it at all.

They have a very business orientated right wing ideology and appear to be appeasing their equally motivated sponsors and media networks.

The rhetoric is always that big money sports are increasingly 'family orientated' but clearly they either assume the families think the same way they do, projecting, or they just flat out lie about their motives.

More political slogans please.

What about Nike?

Alot of people say Tiger shouldn't have to take stands on any issue because he's only a golfer and people should just get off his back and he really dosen't have to explain himself because he's such a nice guy who has set up these charities, etc. But the man is paid tens of millions of dollars to advertise products made from sweatshop labor (like his Nike hat). So he is directly in the middle of a social issue (working conditions in the third world) no matter how much he pretends that sweatshop labor is not of his concern.

Re: Chris Green

Yea Chris, I think Dave didn't mention Nike because it was just so obvious. I had no idea about the Yadana-Chevron connection. Truly horrific stuff.

And Kathy, it certainly is Tiger's right not to discuss his business associations. However, that does not mean what he is doing isn't immoral. The money he's receiving from these companies are drenched in human blood and anguish.

good points

Nice write-up...and yeah, I caught one of your appearances on MSNBC a few days ago. Good work!

Sports and Politics

A professional athlete shouldn't have to take political stands, goes one school of thought. An athlete should NOT take a political stand (especially if it is for an issue opposed by the powers that be) goes another school of thought. They should just play ball, etc.

Meanwhile, the owners and the governing bodies and the TV hosts and the analysts take political stands every day: in support of the wars the U.S. has launched (thanks to all those troops fighting so we can watch football--uh, what?), in support of tax giveaways to owners, in support of wasteful capitalism, and so on.

When people take a stand that goes with the status quo, nobody bats an eyelash. Take a stand for compassion, empathy, and against oppression and suddenly the athlete should shut up?

I don't think so.

Leftists ignorant of economics-- look up "Comparative Advantage"

You really need to take an economics class. The truth is that without "sweatshops" (i.e, paying unskilled labor market wages) as you call them, many of those third world people you claim to care for would be on some sweltering, poverty-ridden farm or prostituting themselves in major cities.

Jeffrey Sachs and Paul Krugman have it right:

When asked during a recent Harvard panel discussion whether there were too many sweatshops in such places, Mr. Sachs answered facetiously. ''My concern is not that there are too many sweatshops but that there are too few,'' he said.

Jeffrey Sachs, who has visited low-wage factories around the world, is opposed to child or prisoner labor and other outright abuses. But many nations, he says, have no better hope than plants paying mere subsistence wages. ''Those are precisely the jobs that were the steppingstone for Singapore and Hong Kong,'' he said, '"and those are the jobs that have to come to Africa to get them out of their backbreaking rural poverty.'"

Paul Krugman blames American self-righteousness, or guilt over Indonesian women and children sewing sneakers at 60 cents an hour. ''A policy of good jobs in principle, but no jobs in practice, might assuage our consciences,'' he said, ''but it is no favor to its alleged beneficiaries.''


Which colin--big or little? Or is it somewhere closer to the end of the alimentary canal? Evidently that posting has been expunged & I risk the same if I don't simmer down.

I've been under the mistaken illusion that Michael Jordan owned top spot as money-making athlete. I say 'making' to distinguish it from the earning they both have truly done in their respective sports. Except for future MBAs, role models they're not. I'm not even sure that Tiger was loyal to his early sponsor--Buick. But, then again, Cadillac is in the GM family.

In regards to Bill Clinton--another exemplary role model--you forgot to mention his successful push of NAFTA right off the get-go of his first administration. His smiling signing of the 'welfare reform' was merely a going away present--shafting fore & aft, if you will.

Love your writing. I want to squeeze that in before you extinguish my outrage.

Tiger Woods

As usual Dave, you take the socially responsible, not tabloid angle. Tiger is just a golfer until he takes money from people for other than golf. Then he becomes a corporate emblem, and if that means for corporations with lots of baggage (chevron et al) then that's his baggage too.

You had me at "Scrutiny"...


I love the passion, clarity and conviction of your article. Was mildly prepared to dislike it because I enjoy Tiger and his image, and I hate the rush-to-judgement ritualistic brand 'em & bash 'em relationship we have with celebs in this country.

But your article stays at the top of the food chain -- away from tabloid-level gossip -- and brings focus to important issues. If this makes other celebs rethink what "their brand" should support, or if it pushes some corporations to do less harm or to do more good, then you (my new fav sports writer) have done us a solid!

Thanks very much...

Enjoy his image?

What do you (or did you) enjoy about Tiger Woods and/or his image?

Tiger and the Money

Dave you are correct in what you say but one must be pragmatic. Tiger's not accepting money from endorsements from any company that offers it is just ridiculous. What he does with the money he receives and how he tries to change the companies offering the money is far more important. If he accepts no endorsements than what chance does he have in changing things?

Re: ignorant leftists and sweatshops

Well the problem with sweatshops is the abuses that go on in them, those which contractors for companies like engage in so that labor costs can be minimized and productivity enhanced and the workers will be too frightened and docile to rise up. Companies that engage in sweatshop production can surely afford to ensure that their sweatshop workers are treated better because they make such huge profits.

As for sweatshops powering the growth of Hong kong, Taiwan Singapore and these other Asian countries, what really powered the growth in those countries was their violation of free market principles. The governments of these countries gave massive subsidies to domestic industries, set production goals for the industries, protected them from foreign competition with tarrifs, severely restricted the flow of capital in and out of the country, etc. In contrast most of the countries where legal sweatshops exist today t are those which have had free market fundamentalism forced on them-- the disastrous policies of the IMF--so I doubt sweatshops will power success similar to the East Asian Tigers in these countries.

The abuses inflicted upon sweatshop workers are inherent in the efforts to maximize profit on the part of corporations and their local contractors. If workers do enjoy a relatively high standard of living in places like Taiwan or South Korea it is because of the protectionism of their governments, a culture of business paternalism or working class organization to pressure for greater rights.

Re: NIke.

Jesse, you're right. The Nike thing is so obvious and my thinking wasn't necessarily to criticize Mr. Zirin in mentioning NIke. The Dubai and Chevron things are pretty important, I wasn't aware of them. It paints a fuller picture Tiger's generally dismal actions. This is a great article.

Re: Enjoy his image?


What I liked was that Tiger always seemed so nice, normal, hard-working, genuinely talented, loving and respectful toward his elders, devoted to his family, etc. He's been in the spotlight since he was 2 1/2 years old, and we never saw a hint of crazy outbursts, drug abuse, unkind words -- nothing bad. He inspired many young people and he has been a solid, dependable role model. That's what I always liked and I hope Tiger pulls it together.

Thanks for asking Steve!


Tiger Woods is a golfer. If he doesnt want to discuss his politics that is his right.
Posted by Kathy on 11/30/09 at 9:54 PM

And it's our right to criticize him for not taking a stand against immoral practices by large companies, Kathy. Nobody's infringing on anybody's rights.

No surprise, but still saddened

Tiger is truly an amazing athlete. So good, in fact he transcends the sport of golf and is easily the most recognizable athlete in the world. I would argue and agree with Dave that he not only deserves the media scrutiny but more so his personal politics should and need to be questioned. Woods hasn't made his fortune by extolling his beliefs but then again, we really don't know what those beliefs are. Perhaps he doesn't care about the environment or labour laws. I am a Tiger Woods golf fan but not a fan of Tiger Woods the person and that saddens me. Perhaps a truly amazing athlete is all Tiger will ever be.

Athlete protest non existent

Same goes for all athletes today. I think LSU and Ole Miss football players could have done more in response to that KKK rally that was held at Ole Miss before their game. At first I suggested sitting out the game but if they did that, the KKK would win. Because part of what the KKK does is anarchism. Work stoppage would play right into their hands. Instead the players and coaches could have worn some kind of band as a symbol, even if the NCAA didn't approve. Something that signifies solidarity amongst all races and cultures. And they could have talked about it in all interviews, and if the interviewer tried to downplay the cause, kindly thank the interviewer and walk off. Something of that nature. They just showed up and played, giving the KKK a perfect forum without a response in solidarity between black and white. Athletes have the power to move mountains. They don't want to risk losing a buck doing so. It's amazing to think of the courage Muhammad Ali had.

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Dave Zirin is the author of the book: "Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics and Promise of Sports" (Haymarket). You can receive his column Edge of Sports, every week by going to dave@edgeofsports.com.
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