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Money Can Buy Image, Not Character

Thu., July 24, 1997

So, I hear Tiger Woods is coming to Miami in October to do an inner-city youth clinic. That’s very sweet of him.

Wonder if he’ll host it at a club that excludes blacks?

Or a club that excludes Jews?


You don’t think Tiger would do that?

You think Tiger Woods is Mr. Equality? You believe he is doing all he can to pry open the doors of golf so all of us, male and female, black and white, can say “I am Tiger Woods”?

Well, guess what?

Tiger Woods works on his golf swing at Lochinvar Country Club in Houston, a club that doesn’t allow women to place even a pinkie toe on its hallowed grounds, a club that wouldn’t allow Woods’ mother to play there if she wanted to. When a CNN-SI television crew showed up in May with female field producer Jules Bailey to do a prearranged piece on Woods’ swing, Bailey was barred from entering. She was told to wait in the car.

The reporter, Ed Werder, and his cameraman weren’t about to leave Bailey behind, so the whole crew left. Before long, they received a call from Woods’ swing coach Butch Harmon, the pro at Lochinvar. He apologized and asked them to come back. The club bigwigs had met and decided to let Bailey in.

Through the back entrance.

The back entrance. In 1997.

Tiger Woods gets paid $40 million by Nike to say things like: “There are still some golf courses in the United States that I cannot play on because of the color of my skin.”

He is revered by golf fans around the world and drooled over by corporate sponsors.

Little girls on TV commercials proudly proclaim “I am Tiger Woods.”

Well, guess what, little girl? You can’t play alongside Woods at Lochinvar. You can’t even watch him.

My problem isn’t with Lochinvar, although it makes me sick that “No Women Allowed” doesn’t seem to elicit the same outrage as “No Blacks Allowed” or “No Jews Allowed.” If the men of Lochinvar want to lock out women, that’s their prerogative. I hope one day they’ll see the light.

My problem is with Woods, the smiling hypocrite.

Like most sports fans, I was glued to the tube during The Masters, marveling at this phenom as he tore apart the course. I thought it was so cool that a man of color was putting on that green jacket. But how can Woods talk about knocking down the barriers of his sport and then turn around and walk through a male-only door at Lochinvar?

His answer: “Unfortunately, my pro is employed there. He has no choice. He has to live and abide by the rules that the board makes up. I can’t be a champion of all causes.”

Listen, Tiger:

1. Your pro does have a choice. Tell me one golf course in America that wouldn’t love to employ the coach of the world’s greatest golfer.

2. Harmon doesn’t have to live by the rules the board makes up. Would he live by those rules if the club excluded blacks or Asians?

3. You can’t be a champion for all causes, that’s true. But Tiger, if you want to sell yourself as a champion for equal access to golf, you might start by tossing that Lochinvar-crested golf shirt. Your daughter will thank you one day.

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