Tiger deserves this comeback, but hardly the medal of freedom.
When I think about the sports heroes who have won the presidential medal of freedom, I think of another golfer, Charlie Sifford, who was the first African-American to play on the PGA Tour and grace the once-bigoted grounds of Augusta National.
I also think of Ernie Banks, who died two years after earning it alongside Dean Smith — who both represented it signifies a lifetime of achievement. Banks was a great baseball player, but also became a community voice in Chicago following his retirement.
I think of other truly deserving athletes like Ted Williams — who gave up five seasons of his prime in baseball to fly fighter jets in World War II and the Korean War. And, of course, Jackie Robinson — the man who broke the color barrier in professional sports. Muhammad Ali is on this list of legends, too.
Not a 43-year-old golfer who came back from serious injuries and more serious personal indiscretions and just happens to be a business partner of the President. Woods is almost as well known for his refusal to speak up on social injustice as he is for winning major golf championships.
The presentation in the Rose Garden elicited either straight reporting by the media or harsh commentary. Rick Reilly, the noted sports writer and golf journalist, said it “sullies everybody . . . and puts a big stain on Tiger” and added that he had so many years left to truly proved he deserved it.
Another national journalist and editor of Golf Week said, “It seems like Tiger Woods’s whole body of work is at halftime right now. It’s a lifetime achievement award. It seems like giving Justin Bieber the lifetime Grammy.”
Woods’ influence on the game is unmistakable, and while his First Tee program for inner city kids hasn’t worked because there aren’t many places to play or practice in the inner city, his rise to fame increased participation in the game across the board. But isn’t that because everyone loves a winner?
People sniffed at Obama awarding the same honor to Oprah Winfrey, because she was a fellow Chicagoan, but hasn’t she fought for humanity while becoming the first woman billionaire?
Not the Prez’s golf buddy, who makes millions off his name.