- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 17, 2002

COMMENTARY

GULLANE, Scotland The PC police arrived at Muirfield yesterday and decided to make Tiger Woods part of their Grand Slam inquisition.
Like Augusta National, which came under fire from the National Council of Women's Organizations recently, Muirfield does not include any women in its membership. Some members of the media are disgruntled by this fact. And yesterday, those folks entreated Tiger Woods to comment on the subject, hoping apparently that he would condemn the sexist practice for all the world to hear.
"They're entitled to set up their own rules the way they want them," said Woods, humoring the controversy vultures by discussing a tertiary subject during the most important week of his professional career. "It would be nice to see everyone have an equal chance to participate if they wanted, but there is nothing you can do about it. If they want to have a group, an organization, and that's the way they want to set it up, then it's their prerogative."
Well said. Enough said. Free societies are based upon an individual's right to behave in the manner he/she chooses in the privacy of his/her own home/club.
Unlike a certain percentage of the free world's population, Tiger understands this fundamental principle. But that thorough grasp of the freedoms guaranteed by democratic governments isn't enough for some people.
"With your stature in the game, do you think you can force the change?" one persistent journalist asked.
Once again, Tiger humored his interrogators by briefly discussing his First Tee organization, which has exposed thousands of underprivileged youngsters to the game.
Incredibly, the misguided freedom fighters still weren't satisfied with his patient responses. They left the interview room grumbling about Tiger's unwillingness to take a strong political stance on the issue.
Apparently, Tiger is expected to be an instrument of social change. A columnist from USA Today criticized Tiger on those same grounds at last year's U.S. Open at Southern Hills. Apparently, it's not enough that Woods is the best golfer on the planet. Apparently, it's not enough that he donates millions to charity each year. According to some, Woods should take time out from his pursuit of arguably the greatest accomplishment in sports history to play the role of Arthur Ashe on the side. Apparently, his status as a global superstar obliges him to attempt to affect social change.
Excuse us, Tiger, but after you finish up hitting shag balls can you do a little work on the AIDS vaccine, as well?
Wake up. It's one thing for us to ask our sports stars to behave like role models. As Charles Barkley once pointed out, that's neither their job nor their obligation. But it's far more presumptuous for folks to expect a 26-year-old in the midst of a Grand Slam run to lobby on behalf of NOW.
Perhaps the most ridiculous notion of all is that Woods should be vilified for attaching himself to the corporate establishment. It's true enough that some of Woods' early ads featured politically charged messages about the courses he couldn't play. And it's true enough that when those ads made some people uncomfortable, Woods and his handlers decided to take a less socially conscious approach. Woods is anything but a fool. He understands that the golf industry that has provided his mountain of gold is driven in large part by rich, white, middle-aged men. And he understands that alienating that demographic could have grave financial repercussions.
So what? Apparently, it's now a social crime to be a shrewd businessman.
Fact is, Woods isn't obligated to make a peep in regard to social politics. He's a golfer, not a politician or a culture cop. But simply because he's both black and incredibly famous, some folks expect him to have a social agenda. Nobody is asking Sergio Garcia for his take on Muirfield's membership policies. And nobody works up an indignant froth over the fact that Garcia has made millions shilling for Adidas without using his leverage as a charasmatic sports star to promote a political platform.
We may never know exactly how Tiger feels on some controversial subjects. So what? It's not his duty to inform us. And to those who say he has sold his soul to corporate America, we say grand. Isn't the ultimate sign of equality the fact that a black man in the United States has achieved such status in the corporate community that he can be just that a member of the establishment?
Let's get back to the British Open and the serious business of the Slam.


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