Nine layers of controversy

January, 24, 2008
Just got done speaking with my colleague Bob Harig, who was on the phone from the Buick Invitational. "You wouldn't believe how many e-mails I've gotten from readers about the whole Kelly Tilghman situation," he told me.

Yes, I would.

I've been reading the comments pages and message boards, monitoring the pulse of the public for 20 straight days now. And I know one thing: Whether you were deeply offended by the "lynch him in a back alley" comment or, like Tiger, believe it to be a "non-issue," you're probably sick and tired of constantly reading and hearing about it.

My personal feelings on the subject? I'm disappointed with how many people don't understand that there is no right or wrong answer here. We should all be open-minded in this situation and hear what others have to say. How else will we ever progress?

That said, I understand the complaints about the inundation of this story and sympathize with the exasperation, but as's Golf Editor, I can tell you this is a news story that has been reported on several different levels. Nine, in fact, that I can name -- and each with merit. It would be irresponsible of the media as a whole to report some of the news, but quit halfway through or not follow up with additional reports.

Let's take a look back at each layer of this story:

Jan. 4: In response to broadcast partner Nick Faldo's joking accusation that the world's best young players would have to "gang up" on Tiger Woods in order to win a major, Tilghman makes the initial "lynch" comment.

Jan. 7: Based on a New York Newsday blog item, news of Tilghman's slip of the tongue begins to circulate among mainstream media, becoming a hot-button issue among non-sports pundits as well.

Jan. 8: Tilghman apologizes for her remark, saying in a statement, "On Friday during our golf broadcast, Nick Faldo and I were discussing Tiger's dominance in the golf world and I used some poorly chosen words. I have known Tiger for 12 years and I have apologized directly to him. I also apologize to our viewers who may have been offended by my comments."

Jan. 8: In response to Tilghman's apology, Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg, releases a statement of his own: "This story is a non-issue. Tiger and Kelly are friends and Tiger has a great deal of respect for Kelly. Regardless of the choice of words used we know unequivocally that there was no ill-intent in her comments. This story is a non-issue in our eyes. Case closed."

Jan. 9: After civil rights leader Al Sharpton criticizes the comment as being, "the same thing Don Imus said," Golf Channel announces that Tilghman has been suspended for two weeks.

Jan. 17: News surfaces about a Golfweek magazine cover image featuring a noose, with the headline, "Caught in a Noose."

Jan. 18: Golfweek editor Dave Seanor, who was responsible for the noose cover image, is fired.

Jan. 21: In his first public comments about the situation, Woods says, "It was unfortunate. Kelly and I did speak. There was no ill intent. She regrets saying it. In my eyes, it's all said and done."

Jan. 24: After serving a two-week suspension, Tilghman returns as play-by-play announcer at the Buick Invitational, beginning the telecast with a 21-second apology (that was interrupted due to an audio glitch and later replayed): "In a recent live broadcast, I used an inappropriate word that was offensive to many. Over the last two weeks I've taken the time to reflect and truly understand the impact of what I said. While I did not intend to offend anyone, I understand why those words were hurtful. I am terribly sorry for any hurt that I have caused. I would like to express my deepest apologies."

Count 'em up. That's nine layers to this story, none of which should have been omitted from any news cycle. The media often gets criticized for reporting part of a story, then failing to follow up with additional news. In this case, I believe we've gotten it right.

Jason Sobel | email

ESPN Senior Writer




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