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Tiger by the Tail?

I never thought I’d find myself defending Tiger Woods. But, alas, I am here.

By now, we all know the details of Tiger Woods’ storied career. He has re-written the PGA record book and is the world’s highest-paid athlete. And he is Black. I mean, Cablinasian.  

But, I digress.

Legend has it that Tiger’s black Cadillac Escalade hit a fire hydrant, outside his driveway – between midnight on Thanksgiving and the dawn of Black Friday – and collided with his neighbor’s tree, leaving him lying on the pavement unconscious and bleeding.  A neighbor called 911. His wife was said to be frantically cradling him when paramedics and law enforcement arrived. 

He was rushed to the hospital and released a few hours later. Fortunately, Tiger’s injuries are reportedly superficial: facial lacerations. 

Disaster averted, right? Yes, for the vehicular crash. But that is not the collision I want to focus on here, for it has become secondary. The real story, as I see it, is Tiger’s head-on crash with the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) – and the vicious, vampire press, or as I call them herein, the tiger. 

His fate was sealed when the news surfaced that his petite wife smashed the rear window of his sport utility vehicle with a golf club, purportedly to pull the 6’1, 185-pound specimen from the SUV.  Although, the blogosphere is rife with rumors that his wife flew into a jealous rage and went off on him, like Jazmine “I Bust the Windows Out Your Car” Sullivan.

This, after the tabloids had reported earlier in the week that Tiger is allegedly in the throes of an affair with a former TV producer, turned former Long Island nightclub hostess – yet another hottie – last seen jetting off to Los Angeles to meet with her newly retained, high-powered celebrity attorney, Gloria Allred. (You know it is a full-fledged media circus when Gloria Allred enters the scene.)

Now, five days later – in today’s 24-hour news cycle – rumors are swirling and everyone is demanding answers.  Tiger should “come clean,” they say. “Where was he going at 2:30 a.m.?” “What is he hiding?” In addition, and more ominously, the FHP is allegedly planning to subpoena his medical records from the accident and maybe even surveillance footage from his home – and/or that of his neighbors.

And it doesn’t help that Tiger’s highly paid marketing machine has badly handled what should have been a minor, albeit embarrassing, blip on his radar screen. Clearly, there is no one adept at crisis management on Team Tiger. Otherwise, the FHP would not have been so thoroughly alienated by repeated public rebuffs by Woods’ people.

Still, the fact remains Tiger Woods is not obligated by law to speak to the police about this matter. He was involved in a one-car accident. The police have stated categorically that alcohol was not a factor in the crash. His attorneys have provided the requisite documentation to the police: driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance. Period.

So what is the problem?  What else do they need to know?  Why are they saying that charges may be pending?  What charges?  Against whom?  His wife, the mother of his two young children?

Nor is he obligated to make an on-camera statement to the voracious public, fueled by the ratings-driven media. Even after his ill-advised, poorly crafted statement issued on his Web site, everyone wants more.

It is no wonder he canceled the long-scheduled news conference to promote the Chevron World Challenge, his celebrity golf tournament benefitting his foundation – or that he will not be in attendance this week at the charity event. Other than the press, who could blame him? 

Ultimately, if Tiger has not done so already, he should assemble the best crisis management team that his vast means can buy.  Understandably, his  team is not accustomed to adversity, as Tiger has had the proverbial tiger – the media – by the tail ever since he bounded onto the scene as a child prodigy, putting against the legendary Bob Hope on the Mike Douglas Show as a 2-year-old.

Now, as the metaphor goes, the tiger has turned on Tiger, with the ferocity of the deadly predator. And if Tiger is smart, he will not surface until his face is healed, lest images of his lacerated, Black (and black-and-blue) face be used from now to perpetuity, even for his obituary.  

And whatever you do, Tiger:  Stay Black, er, Cablinasian.

Dr. Reed is a diversity consultant and assistant professor of English and African-American literature at Virginia State University.

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