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    Not out of the Woods yet, The Social Responsibilities of Star Athletes - CASE STUDY


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    Not out of the Woods yet, The Social Responsibilities of Star Athletes - CASE STUDY Empty Not out of the Woods yet, The Social Responsibilities of Star Athletes - CASE STUDY

    Post by Admin on Fri Oct 30, 2009 3:44 pm

    Not out of the Woods yet, The Social Responsibilities of Star Athletes

    When Tiger Woods was finishing up at the British Open in July, 2002, he was asked by reporters about the policy at the Augusta National Golf Club that excludes women from membership. Woods is reported to have replied, “It would be nice to see everyone have an equal chance to participate, but there is nothing you can do about it." Later in the year, when asked again about the issue, Woods said, "Do I want to see a female member? Yes. But it's our right to have any club set up the way we want to."

    Many were dismayed by Woods’ response. As the child of a racially mixed marriage (African-American and Thai) in the United States, Woods certainly had to be aware of the negative impact of discrimination. Why did he seem indifferent to such discrimination when directed against women? How, they asked, can he defend the notion that it’s an American right to set up clubs in any way they want—at least in those cases where Americans want to set them up in discriminatory ways. Furthermore, although Augusta is a private club, it in fact plays an important public role, since it hosts one of the most prestigious golf tournaments in the United States, the Masters Tournament, an event that draws many spectators and extensive news coverage.

    Woods’ reply to these criticisms was that he wanted to pick his own issues. "We're trying to do a lot of different things. But what I've found is that a lot of people want me to be the head of their cause. It's hard. I certainly understand what they're trying to accomplish at Augusta. I also understood the Confederate flag issue a while ago. But I'm trying to keep my focus on my foundation [the Tiger Woods Foundation, which supports golf participation for minority youths], and what we're tying to do. I don't think it should be the responsibility of celebrities, or sports figures, to have to be the champion of all causes."

    To make the situation more complex, Woods himself is not a member of the Augusta National Golf Club, so he himself is not a member of the club that is denying membership to women. Augusta does not currently discriminate against members on the basis of race, although apparently it did so in the past. Furthermore, celebrity white golfers who are members of Augusta, like Arnie Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, are rarely asked about this issue.

    This reply raises interesting and important questions. What are the social responsibilities of celebrity athletes? Are those responsibilities any different for celebrity athletes who are also members of minority racial and ethnic groups? Should these have a position on various moral and social problems confronting society today? Is it even possible for them to be neutral on an issue? What happens if they espouse a position that many people think is wrong? What role do the media play in this process? Sketch out your position on this set of issues


    Source: Jere Longman with Clifton Brown “Augusta Debate Catches Woods Off Balance,” New York Times, Sunday, October 20, 2002, Sports Section.

    (c) Association for Practical and Professional Ethics (APPE)

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