My friend Bill Salvin of Signal Bridge Communications wrote a great piece on Tiger’s flawed approach to his PR problem this past week. I know that I earlier said it was probably a good thing Tiger was seeking privacy and supporting his wife and not sharing more information. Of course, at the time I didn’t know there was going to be texts and voice messages produced as proof of his infidelity. Maybe Tiger didn’t think so either. And, as Bill points out, in his brief statement on November 19, Tiger lied. He called the rumors “false, unfounded and malicious.” Some of them, at least, were true! That’s “doubling down” on a mistake, which should never happen.
I believed he probably did have an affair, and I believed his wife may very well have have chased him around with a club and maybe even got a few licks in on him before taking out the back window of his SUV (was it before or after he crashed the vehicle?). But I didn’t think sharing all the details was going to help him, his wife, or any of us, for that matter. The fact is, however, the dogs would not let this bone lie still. And if there was any way to tell the story without Tiger “outing himself” first, it was going to happen. Despite other financial problems traditional media may have, there are no shortages of budgets to reward any person willing to share photos, videos, or text/voice messages helping to show Tiger cheating on his wife.
I’ve always stated that it’s better for an organization (or person) to out themselves on issues rather than wait for someone else to do it. At that point, you’ve lost the ability to frame the story in any way. I don’t think there is any way for Tiger to share this story in a way that earns sympathy. Even if he was a victim of spousal abuse as a result of his infidelity, many would think it was justified. Not only that, potentially getting his beautiful, cheated-upon wife put in jail for said abuse would have created a media circus. It’s a mess.
Does Tiger owe us explanations? I’ve thought about that for a couple days now. If his sole source of income was winnings from golf, I’d say he doesn’t. BUT, because Tiger makes the majority of his income from product endorsements — selling us on the stuff his face sells — then he does have an obligation to talk to us about what’s going on, provide explanations (if there are any) and, most importantly, apologize. Apologize for the bad example he was for our kids. Apologize to his wife for abusing her trust. Apologize to all of us for lying in his statement. There are times we don’t need the full story. But we never deserve to be lied to.
Tiger has a lot of work to do to earn back people’s trust. Without that, his endorsement deals will evaporate and he will have to get used to living off his winnings alone.