Official Blog of Bannon Leadership Consulting Founder Shawn Bannon

Breaking My Silence Before Tiger Breaks His — Mr. Woods, the Media and Today’s Non-Press Conference

So, I’d originally planned to not say much publicly about the Tiger Woods story, but the tone of the coverage since word broke that he’d be speaking today has moved me to comment on Tiger’s troubles, the media and what I hope we hear during his remarks this morning. 

Tiger Woods has gone against the advice of most PR professionals and has remained silent since sordid details of extra-marital affairs surfaced last fall.                                                           Photo: Brisbane Times

Tiger Woods has gone against the advice of most PR professionals and has remained silent since sordid details of extra-marital affairs surfaced last fall. Photo: Brisbane Times

When the news of Tiger’s infidelity and indiscretions made headlines for weeks on end in the fall, I didn’t see much value in contributing to the noise.  I watched as the cable news outlets invited talking heads from the PR world to discuss how Tiger and his team should get in front of the story.  With very few exceptions, they lamented his silence and prescribed a tried and true blueprint for celebrity confession, contrition and rehabilitation.

They talked about repackaging him; rebranding him; and, in time, resuscitating his image.  Some went so far as to suggest he should get on with the divorce, which they assumed was a foregone conclusion, as quickly as possible. 

I can’t say any of it was particularly bad advice.  But I found the commentary and the scramble to capitalize on the sad story of this man’s failures and his family’s misery distasteful.  That’s a personal reaction, and I won’t condemn any of my colleagues in the business who jumped on the opportunity to raise awareness of their own brands and expertise by getting into the fray.  I just didn’t want to be a part of it myself.

So, I watched it all unfold like every other golf fan. 

See, I’ve loved the game of golf since my older brother taught me to play when I was in high school.  I love the history, integrity and tradition of the sport.  I love that we play the ball as it lies and that we penalize ourselves even when nobody else has seen us ground a club in the bunker.  I love that the game is all about individual performance and personal accountability.  And I love that you can play your way back to par even after a triple-bogey on an early hole. 

That last bit is what grabbed me as everything we thought we knew about Tiger Woods changed last fall.

I think the idea that we can overcome our mistakes in golf appeals to me particularly because, as a Christian, the knowledge that we can each be redeemed is so much a part of who I am and what I believe.  I won’t judge Tiger for the way he’s fallen, nor have I found any joy in watching his picture-perfect image break apart, because we all stumble in our lives.  We all fall, some of us harder than others.  Most of us just don’t have to read about our failures in the newspapers afterward. 

So, as abhorrent as I believe some of Tiger’s alleged activities to be, I won’t judge him.  Rather, I feel for his family and friends who suffer alongside him.  My faith teaches that we should hate the sin but love the sinner … that we owe one another compassion and forgiveness.  I try to understand why a man who seems to have it all would make such destructive decisions, and I hope – as a believer and as a fan – that he’ll find his way to a more righteous path in his personal life and then, when he’s ready, that he’ll return to once again amaze us with his brilliance on the golf course. 

So because my reaction to all of this has been so personal – more a matter of how I practice my faith than how I’d suggest Tiger handle the press – I’ve been reluctant to say much about this from a public relations perspective.

But I happened to be watching Fox News on Wednesday when the announcement was made that Tiger would be making his first public statement this morning.  Reading the details – that it would not be a press conference, that those in attendance would generally be Tiger’s closest supporters, and that Tiger would not be taking questions from the media – anchor Shepard Smith was indignant.  He talked with the network’s celebrity news correspondent and mocked the event as little more than a photo-op at which Tiger wouldn’t be forced to answer “the hard questions” from real journalists.

Then yesterday I read report after report in the media asking just who in the world Tiger Woods thinks he is, incredulous that he continues to fiercely guard his privacy and seemingly incensed that Tiger isn’t following the usual celebrity script for these sorts of things.

Associated Press sports columnist Tim Dahlberg wrote: “Spare us the tears and the carefully crafted message of family and love. Don’t try for sympathy by saying how tough this has been on your family, and how you hope your wife and children will one day forgive you. Stand up and answer the tough questions, no matter how painful it might be.”

And Sports Illustrated’s Michael Bamberger added: “Arnold Palmer played for his fans, but Woods never has, and nothing’s likely to change. It’s arrogant and offputting, the whole idea of this most public of people, one of the best known faces in the world, stepping back into public life without taking so much as a question.”

As Dahlberg’s column indicates more than once, the media sees this as just another celebrity attempting to rehabilitate his image.  But I think Bamberger hits a little closer to home when he writes that Tiger has never played for his fans.

Tiger has won 14 majors and more non-majors than any other active player on the PGA Tour.                                                    Photo: Reuters

Tiger has won 14 majors and more non-majors than any other active player on the PGA Tour. Photo: Reuters

Tiger Woods may or may not really appreciate his fans; we’ll likely never know.  But he plays golf for one purpose – to win championships.  And he’s always accepted the celebrity status that comes with being the greatest golfer in the world because you can’t dominate the sport without taking on the fame.  That doesn’t mean he has to like the attention.  He’s not a typical celebrity in that regard.  And for that reason, I’ve supported his decision to go quiet these last few months even though it goes against what I’d usually advise a client to do in a public crisis.

The way I see it, because Tiger doesn’t value the attention and adoration of the public the way many celebrities seem to, he doesn’t have to re-establish himself for the sake of the fans – and certainly not for the sake of the media.

Tiger doesn’t have any obligation to “answer the tough questions,” about his alleged sex addition and extra-marital affairs, whether he and his wife will stay together, how this all might affect their children, or even what he plans to do to earn back the respect of the golf world. 

We have this sense – and it’s evident in the media’s coverage in the last two days – that we are entitled to know all there is to know about celebrities.  But, really, none of what Tiger’s done off the course is our business unless he wants to share it with us.  He obviously wants to keep these matters as private as possible – as would anybody struggling to overcome his shame, right his life and protect his family.  So, despite our prurient interest in finding out every salacious detail, Tiger shouldn’t feel any responsibility to confess his darkest secrets or to let us into his home to see how much his family is hurting. 

My hope is that Tiger’s focus right now is on building a new, healthy foundation in his relationships with his wife, children and others who love him.  Nothing he says in the media will help him do that.  But it was reported last night that he’s returning to therapy after today’s public event, which would seem to be a sign of his commitment to really turning his life around.  And if he’s successful at that, the relationships with his family will work themselves out.  And golf fans will cheer for him when he starts hitting golf shots again the way only he can.

Out of respect to his fellow PGA Tour professionals – none of whom really want to be subjected to the media circus that will accompany Tiger’s return to tournament golf – I like Tiger’s decision to make a public statement today.  What he’ll say is anybody’s guess, but here’s a sense of the direction in which I’d like to see him go to announce his return to public life and to diffuse some of the clamor that is certain to follow him for at least the foreseeable future:

As you might expect, these last few months have been very hard on my family and I.  There have been a lot of things said and written about the mistakes I’ve made – some of them true, some of them not.  Setting the record straight is not half as important as the simple truth that I have strayed and hurt the people who mean the most to me.

I’m not going to ask for sympathy or complain about how hard it is to be me.  There are challenges that come with fame, but I’ve made a very good living playing the sport that I love, and I have an amazing wife and two beautiful children.  I’ve never made excuses when I’ve missed clutch putts, and I won’t make excuses for the failures in my personal life.  

Despite what I know to be right and wrong, I gave in to temptations that I should have been strong enough to resist, and it will be a lifetime before I overcome the shame of what I’ve done.  But I’m profoundly sorry for the pain that I’ve caused.  I’m working everyday now to become a better man – a better husband, father and friend.  And that’s all I can do.

I understand that a lot of people have a lot of questions.  I’m sorry, but I won’t be answering them.  Elin and I are working to figure out what’s best for our family, and we won’t be talking publicly about our personal struggle.  This is what’s best for our children, and we ask that you all respect our desire to keep our private life private.

That said, I’m here today to say thank you to the thousands of friends, family and fans who have called and written to offer words of encouragement in this difficult time.  We couldn’t possibly respond to all of you, but we hope you all know how much your concern and support mean to us.

I’m also here to thank the terrific team of dedicated professionals at the Tiger Woods Foundation for their ongoing support of our mission to improve the lives of millions of children and young adults.  I know you all have been under a lot of undue stress these last few months.  And I’m truly sorry for that.  I’ve let down a lot of people who looked up to me, and I hope in time to earn back their respect.

While I’m saying thanks, I’d like to mention the sponsors that have continued to support me through all of this. I know your brands have been impacted, and I’m going to work to restore the value of our relationships.

Lastly, I’m here to announce that I will be returning to competitive golf at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at The Bay Hill Club and Lodge in late March.  And I will play in the Masters in April.  Golf is my profession and my passion, and it’s important for my family that I get back to playing and winning championships.

As you all know, I’m heading back now to continue the work I’ve been doing over the last month and a half to realign the way I conduct my life with the priorities that are really important to me — my family and my career.  I’m as committed to this as I’ve ever been to winning majors.  I’ve got a long road to travel, but I know what’s at stake and what it all means to me.  Thank you all for your understanding and support.

The Woods family during happier times -- perhaps a reminder of what still could be.                                               Photo: E! Online

The Woods family during happier times -- perhaps a reminder of what still could be. Photo: E! Online

Like every other golf fan – and millions of people who have only become interested in Tiger Woods since this ordeal began – I’ll be glued to the TV set when he takes the microphone at 11 this morning.  Whatever he says, whatever details he does or doesn’t share, and wherever his life is headed, I hope we’ll all begin to focus less now on the failures of his past and more on the man he has the potential to become. 

As is painfully obvious, all the money and all the trophies in the world don’t make life or love very easy.  So if you happen to be a person of faith like me, though I don’t usually get so personal in my blogs, I hope you’ll join me in praying for Tiger and his family.  In the coming months, they’re going to need those prayers a lot more than he needs us rooting for his putts to drop on Sunday at Augusta.

Think I’m totally wrong about the media, our right to answers or what Tiger should say in his statement today?  Leave a comment below or e-mail me with your thoughts.  And don’t forget to follow Bannon Communications on Twitter.

2 Responses to “Breaking My Silence Before Tiger Breaks His — Mr. Woods, the Media and Today’s Non-Press Conference”

  1. Shawn Bannon says:

    Here’s a great blog with another suggested Tiger speech for this morning. It goes a lot further than I think Tiger will go in an effort to explain things and win over those who will listen, but I love the way it’s written.

  2. Machion Garrison says:

    It is 4:41pm and I have not heard what Tiger Woods had to say this morning. I have no intentions to listen to what I don’t believe is any of my business. That said, I do hope that however Mr. Woods addresses the insensitive baying of the media, I hope his words will fall fresh with the same spirit as the speech I just read from Shawn Bannon.

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