Tiger Woods is perhaps the most famous, and most dominant, athlete in the world today. The 32-year-old golfer with the multicultural background he once proudly described as “Cablinasian” has somehow accomplished the impossible: made golf on a Sunday must-see TV.
Woods is a trailblazer and already a legend for his ability to perform when the spotlight is at its hottest. But he has also established a reputation for reticence when confronted with the real world off the greens. For all his cultural capital, Woods has refused to take stands on issues that should hit close to home, such as restricted golf courses, or even when the Golf Channel’s Kelly Tilghman suggested young PGA players “lynch him in a back alley” in a “joke” about how they might overcome his dominance. Tiger has largely maintained the tight-lipped silence of a Benedictine monk.
After the lynching comment, ESPN’s Scoop Jackson became so frustrated with this disciplined quietude he wrote, “Because of who he is, Tiger Woods has the power to make people listen. Not just hear his words–but embrace what he has to say…. It’s a stand he needs to take because people who change the world eventually have to take stands. Whether strong or silent, good or evil, they take stands not to prove their beliefs, but to rectify a situation or condition.”
His defenders have always said that behind the scenes Woods has been an agent for change, and that he shouldn’t be criticized just because he does his good deeds without media fanfare. They say he wields that influence through his nonprofit Tiger Woods Foundation. Go to the website, and a virtual Woods walks right onto your screen and welcomes you to a place where “kids can achieve anything.” The site boasts: “more than 10 million young people have benefited from the Tiger Woods Foundation since its inception in 1996. What started out with limited access throughout America, now reaches out to young people around the world.”
Yet now the Foundation is “reaching around the world” in a way that has human rights activists concerned about a business partnership that smells like sulfur.
The Tiger Woods Foundation has entered into an extensive five-year partnership with Chevron Corporation, with the oil and energy giant becoming the title sponsor of the Tiger Woods Foundation World Challenge Golf Tournament.
“Chevron has a track record and a commitment to bettering the communities where they operate,” Woods said in a press release on April 3. And Chevron’s executive vice president chimed in, “Chevron, Tiger and the Tiger Woods Foundation share similar values…as well as a deep commitment to make a difference in local communities.”