Recently, journalist Mike Freeman wrote an article blasting golf superstar Tiger Woods for not supporting Barack Obama, suggesting that Woods is not being a good citizen, and, in fact, not helping the African-American cause as a result of it.
In fact, Freeman should have to carry Tiger's clubs for a week for this preposterous charge. The fact of the matter is that Tiger Woods is probably the most recognizable black athlete on earth. Period. Some would even argue that he is the most recognizable athlete altogether.
What Freeman fails to realize is that Tiger is carrying on with an American tradition of keeping his political beliefs discreet. Anyone remember Dave Chapelle's colorful piece on how people would rather talk explicitly about bedroom affairs than share their thoughts on candidates? It was funny, but it definitely holds some truth to it.
Tiger simply wanted to keep his mouth shut and lead his own life and not brag about which of the two candidates he selected in the voting booth. After all, isn't that why voting booths have curtains so nobody sees which button you pressed?
To those who say that athletes are people just like us and should be politically active, I say you are right, but I also think they should be wise about it.
Remember Curt Schilling? He rallied heavily for George W. Bush in 2004, and more power to him for that. But you know what, that's something he did outside of his sports world, and I have no problem with that at all.
Reporters wanted to know how Schilling felt in the sixth inning when he gave up a run, and they couldn't care less about what he had to say about Bush's policies.
Curt Schilling was a starting pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, not a political correspondent for Fox News. If an athlete wants to get politically involved, then great. If not, so what?
There is another crowd who argues that Tiger could have significantly helped in the elections due to his fame and success. Here's the catch: he also could have hurt himself.
A simple truth regarding athlete-media relations is that anything you say can and will be used against you in some way or another, whether you like it or not.
Anyone who follows the NBA closely remembers the incident a few years ago when Kevin Garnett suggested that the playoffs were like a war, and that he was ready to get out the guns and the AK's and all the other weapons he needed to win his battles.
Not only did Garnett hurt his own image, but also the NBA's image at a time when commissioner David Stern was (and still is) trying to increase the league's support in many red states.
On a purely political tangent, Tiger could have hurt Mr. Obama's chances by giving the conservative right more fuel to their constant charge that the Dems are supported by movie stars and athletes while the GOP has the backing of real, everyday Americans.
If Woods did endorse Obama, Rush Limbaugh would have another pill-poppin' work day, Bill O'Reilly would surely have another happy moment in his miserable life, and Ann Coulter's horns would finally come out of her head for all to see.
So I thank you, Mr. Woods, for keeping your pie hole shut. I would prefer to not see Ann Coulter's horns just yet.
And now to the most important, yet subtle, charge that Freeman shot at Tiger. I get the feeling that Freeman is accusing Woods of doing a disservice to the African-American community by not supporting Obama. He almost makes it seem like Woods is a traitor to his people.
This issue needs to be addressed because this attitude towards Tiger has persisted among many in the black community, and it is absolutely unsubstantiated. Tiger Woods has set up many charities around the United States, the most famous of which is The Tiger Woods Foundation.
It is specifically aimed at improving the lives of disadvantaged inner-city children. Tiger may be filthy rich, but he does his part to ensure that those needing that one break get a helping hand.
Tiger Woods is not hurting the black image whatsoever, plain and simple. It cannot be stated any clearer.
Ron Artest hurt the black image with his antics in Detroit. Kobe Bryant hurt the black image with his antics in Vail, Colo. Pacman Jones hurt the black image with his antics in Nashville, Dallas, New York, and pretty much any other city with a booming strip club.
When these athletes are charged with their crimes and their faces are all over CNN, do you not get the feeling that millions upon millions of African-Americans just sit there with their heads hung in disbelief? Do you ever think that they might feel just a tad bit betrayed? For those millions, Iverson isn't the answer, Woods is.
Sure, Tiger can be boring off the golf course. He's what people might call "plain ol' vanilla." He speaks his mind when it comes to his swing or what he thinks of Phil Mickelson, but when it comes to things unrelated to golf, he keeps his mouth shut in today's ever-intrusive world (thank you, ESPN).
Tiger Woods didn't hurt his own race by staying out of the political arena. In fact, he didn't hurt anyone at all. He only helps his race everyday by being himself: a drama-free, trouble-free, no-nonsense guy who just goes on about his own business.
Oh, and it also helps that the best golfer on earth is the son of a black man who wasn't even allowed into golf courses in his own youth.
So Freeman, the next time you wish to malign an athlete or a celebrity by suggesting that he is detrimental to his own people, pick someone less honorable than Tiger Woods. Believe me, you will find plenty.
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