Skip to main content

As prominent athletes speak out on racial violence, where is Tiger Woods' voice?

Getty Images

What is Tiger Woods thinking today?

How profoundly was he affected when he saw those images of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck until the life was snuffed out of Floyd?

How outraged is Woods?

It’s been a week now.

In what way has Woods been moved by images of rioting in Los Angeles, so close to where he grew up in Orange County? How have images of police and National Guard standoffs, the pepper spraying of protesters, the launching of tear gas and rubber bullets in at least 140 cities across the United States, landed on his heart?

Earnest protests rage, amid arsonist fires and larceny and looting in more than one city where the PGA Tour visits.

It’s been six days since the first protesters flooded into Minneapolis streets.

With so many athletes speaking out, with Woods uniquely qualified from golf’s ranks to address race in America, where is his voice?

Editor's note: Tiger Woods tweeted the following statement at 9:40 p.m. ET on Monday:

Tiger has never been comfortable using his platform to address social causes – and the same could be said about the sport that he plays – but Woods’ silence to this point isn’t just deafening with so many mega-stars taking a stand.

It’s potentially defining.

In the Colin Kaepernick era, athletes aren’t just increasingly activists.

They are calling each other out.

“I believe all people need to rise up and make their voices heard, but I do think athletes have the biggest reach,” NBA star Carmelo Anthony wrote back when the Black Lives Matter movement was rising. “We have the biggest platforms to speak out, one where people pay attention to what we have to say ... We have that influence.”

Even Nike, sponsor to Woods and so many other athletes, is urging activism with the message posted Saturday on its social media accounts.

“For once, Don’t Do it,” the post reads. “Don’t pretend there’s not a problem in America. Don’t turn your back on racism. Don’t accept innocent lives being taken from us. Don’t make any more excuses. Don’t think this doesn’t affect you. Don’t sit back and be silent. Don’t think you can’t be part of the change. Let’s all be part of the change.”

More than golf wonders what Tiger Woods must be thinking today as he reads that.

Los Angeles Lakers star Lebron James weighed in early in the aftermath of Floyd’s death.

“Why doesn’t America love US!!!!!??? TOO” he tweeted.

James also posted a photo of himself wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the words “I can’t breathe.”

Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry made his voice heard.

“If this image doesn’t disturb you and piss you off, then [I don’t know],” Curry wrote in an Instagram post. “I’ve seen a lot of people speak up and try to articulate how fed up and angry they are.”

He hasn’t seen it from Woods.

Not yet, anyway.

Tiger’s agent, Mark Steinberg, did not respond Monday to's request for comment.

Curry has been witness to countless other athletes using their platform. Even Michael Jordan – who will forever be remembered for defending his lack of activism by saying “Republicans buy sneakers, too” – is weighing in over Floyd’s death and the racism inherent.

“I stand with those who are calling out the ingrained racism and violence toward people of color,” Jordan said Sunday in a statement. “We have had enough.”

Is Tiger already too late? Is a statement less genuine if it comes today amid pressure to take a stand?

Woods’ niece, Cheyenne Woods, is speaking out.

“I think the older I’ve gotten the more I realize that I do have a very powerful platform as a female golfer, as a minority golfer and using that,” she told Golfweek. “You see athletes like Lebron James and Steph Curry speak out about these issues and it’s very powerful to see somebody in that light have such a strong stance on something that matters to them. I think they are great role models in that sense of just truly having a voice.”

Even Henni Zuel, GolfTV’s specialized Tiger host and interviewer, felt compelled to address not only racism in the world, but the racism in golf.

“Racism in golf may not be obvious or explicitly said, sometimes it has been but more often than not, it’s in a look, in a judgmental tone of voice, ‘Are you lost?’ or ‘Can I help you?’” she wrote in a longish Twitter thread. “At the check-in, that means ‘You don’t belong here.’”

Zuel also praised golf and all it offers, and she invited her followers to be more inclusive.

Earl Woods, Tiger’s father, once predicted his son would have a greater impact on the world than Gandhi, Buddha or Nelson Mandela.

“Tiger will do more than any other man in history to change the course of humanity,” Earl said. “He is the Chosen One. He’ll have the power to impact nations. Not people. Nations.”

Later in life, when it was clear how uninterested Tiger was politically, Earl explained that he meant Tiger would have that impact as an “ambassador at large.”

Still, those expectations, or that fatherly challenge, may be the toughest Tiger ever faced.

Tiger is facing them today.

“Speak only if it improves the silence,” Gandhi once said.

Can Tiger do that now?

It means more than making some statement acknowledging the pain the nation’s feeling. It means taking a stand, some stand, any stand that helps take us to a better place.