On Wednesday, the Golf Channel suspended anchor Kelly Tilghman for two weeks for saying last week that young golfers who wanted to challenge Tiger Woods should “lynch him in a back alley.”
Tilghman’s comments, as politically incorrect as they were, were not racist. It was merely a slip of the tongue from a woman who was trying to fill time in a broadcast booth at the Mercedes-Benz Championship.
But, in the post-Don Imus era, when anything you say can be taken out of context, her words were not going to just fade out in the airwaves and go unnoticed by the media and the Golf Channel.
The Golf Channel said in a statement, “There is simply no place on our network for offensive language like this. ... Consequently, we have decided to suspend Kelly for two weeks, effective immediately.”
The Rev. Al Sharpton joined in on the mess by demanding she be fired immediately. And when all this is going on, Mark Steinberg, Woods’ agent at IMG, said he didn’t think there was any ill intent. He considered the matter as “case closed.”
This isn’t the first time a racial controversy has centered around Tiger. When Tiger won the 1997 Masters at the budding age of 21, to become the youngest champion, the infamous Fuzzy Zoeller referred to him as “that little boy,” and suggested that Woods not serve fried chicken or collard greens, “or whatever the hell they serve,” at the champions dinner.
Those comments were blatantly, racially offensive. It took years for Zoeller to recover from the fallout, rightfully so. Tilghman’s comments did not have an undertone of hatred like Zoeller’s did.
The Golf Channel took such swift action against Tilghman because Woods is the network’s bread and butter. You don’t disturb the Tiger.
He makes a lot of money in advertising for the channel. Could you imagine the Golf Channel without Tiger? His absence would be catastrophic for the channel.
The suspension of Tilghman was the channel trying to clean up a public relations mess that wasn’t really that much of a mess to begin with.
Al Sharpton said to CNN “Prime News”, referring to the word lynching, “It’s a specific racial term that this woman should be held accountable for. What she said is racist. Whether she’s a racist ... is immaterial.”
If it’s immaterial if she’s a racist then why does Mr. Sharpton throw that word around so freely at anyone who slips just a little bit behind a microphone or in the broadcast booth, and then he basks in the publicity it brings him.
As I watch with much enthusiasm as two legendary black men dominate the world of golf and politics, I’m reminded of the words of a battered Rodney King, who said, “Can’t we all just get along?”