Tiger Woods has begun to play golf again, to compete almost at the level of the early years of the century. And despite his former “transgressions,” the world seems to have welcomed him back. Forgive and forget and all that—which people quote when they like the person to begin with. Not so much when they don’t.
And if his resurrection is going to sell tickets and make advertisers wealthy, so be it. This is not the first time people have made concessions for celebrity.
Of course these days a spot in the limelight creates issues, like this little encounter last Sunday when Mr. Woods was asked about the president and replied “You have to respect the office. No matter who is in the office, you may like, dislike personality or the politics, but we all must respect the office.”
But when he then said he’s known “Donald” for years, played golf with him, had dinner together, my stomach revolved a bit, then completed its turn when Woods refused to answer a question on race relations in the U.S., adding “I just finished 72 holes and [I’m] really hungry.”
In the early nineties I heard George H.W. Bush speak in person. I hadn’t voted for him or his predecessor, and I would vote for Bill Clinton a year later, and yet I still remember being stirred by the grandeur of it—the security, the respect, the awe of being within yards of the leader of the free world. I had no use for his policies; but the office of the President, which had been adulterated two decades earlier by Nixon and Agnew, was alive and well again.
If Tiger Woods had made his statement about his friend the president thirty years ago, or any day before the Trump inauguration, he would not have sounded like such an equivocator. Even now, I prefer to think he isn’t a Trump apologist so much as a man looking for a way out of a sticky situation.
I don’t blame him, but he should know—we all should—that harking back to the honor of the presidency doesn’t work anymore: it stopped working on January 20, 2017. Trump is now in the 586th day of his term, and I would assert that there has not been a single one when he has not disgraced the office. Woods did not have to point that out, but he could have ventured a little further into truth. The limelight demands it.
Woods tried to be circumspect at first, but the dinner and golf references rendered him just another wealthy guy in the select circle of people Trump tolerates, and one of the few people of color who, in Trumpworld, do not suffer from low IQ. Tiger Woods is apparently smart because he says nice things about the president; LeBron James, et al.? They must just be dumb.
In fairness to Woods, his offhand capitulation ranks low compared to that of the real sycophants like Lindsey Graham or Paul Ryan, but if good people don’t speak out, they provide a virtual Petri dish for organisms like Donald Trump to prosper. Even athletes standing at a microphone after a grueling and tense day of competition have to realize that tepid neutrality is not an option. Not for us. Not for them.