Question for Tiger Woods and the PGA Tour: Why is it that you’ll pounce on poor, old Hank Haney for a bad, borderline racist/sexist joke about women professional golfers, but you wouldn’t stand up to rich and powerful Augusta National for something much more sexist – banning women from being members of a private, privileged country club?
I totally agree with Haney, who took to Twitter earlier this week to object to Tiger’s criticism following Haney’s SiriusXM radio suspension, which came after some off-the-cuff comments Haney made on the air about Korean women golfers.
Last Friday, Woods chimed in and endorsed Haney being suspended by the PGA Tour, which owns the SiriusXM channel in which Haney’s show appeared.
“He deserved it,” Woods said at the Memorial Tournament. “Just can’t look at life like that. And he obviously said what he meant, and he got what he deserved.”
With all of Tiger’s past issues concerning women, Haney wasn’t about to be lectured by Woods of all people.
“Amazing how @tigerwoods has now become the moral authority on issues pertaining to women,” Haney said in his Twitter dispatch. “I spent 6 great years coaching Tiger, and not one time did he ever hear me utter one sexist or racist word. Now, in addition to being a 15-time major champion, I guess he thinks he’s also a mind reader? #glasshouses”
By now, everybody who follows golf knows about Haney’s comments on his daily radio show prior to the start of the U.S. Women’s Open last week. Dismissively, Haney, in bantering with his co-host, said he wasn’t really up to speed on women’s golf and therefore he would predict a Korean golfer would win the Open. He then said offhandedly he would go with a golfer named “Lee” – and as long as he didn’t have to say a first name, “I’d get a bunch of them right.”
Turns out, Haney’s cavalier prediction was correct. After South Korea’s Jeongeun Lee6 won the U.S. Women’s Open on Sunday, Haney said this validated his pre-tournament analysis. To add even more fuel to Haney’s stance, Jeongeun Lee6 has a number after her last name to differentiate herself from several other Jeongeun Lees who play professional women’s golf in the Republic of Korea.
“My prediction that a Korean woman would be atop the leaderboard at the Women’s U.S. Open was based on statistics and facts,” Haney tweeted right after the tournament. “Korean women are absolutely dominating the LPGA Tour. If you asked me again my answer would be the same but worded more carefully.”
I don’t think Haney is a blatant racist or sexist; I think he’s just a lazy radio host who didn’t do his homework and tried to cover it up with a bad joke. Hey, Hank, as someone who does a daily radio show, can I clue you in on something? If you’re doing a golf show on the week of the U.S. Women’s Open and you don’t regularly follow the women’s game, I have two words for you: Show prep! Do your homework so you don’t sound like a racist, misogynistic idiot.
To Haney’s credit, later in that same show, he apologized and did so again on Twitter. But there was no quelling the social media mob. There was outrage on Twitter, including a couple of passionate, strongly worded tweets from former U.S. Women’s Open winner Michelle Wie.
It’s no secret why Tiger decided to come off the top rope on Haney. He’s obviously still bitter that Haney wrote a controversial book called “The Big Miss,” which chronicled his six successful years with Tiger but also explored some unflattering parts of Woods’ personal life.
Woods, of course, was livid about the book.
“I think it’s unprofessional and very disappointing,” Woods told ESPN at the time. “Especially because it’s someone I worked with and trusted as a friend.”
The feud between Tiger Woods and Hank Haney is between them, but I have a huge problem with Tiger and the PGA Tour suddenly standing up for women’s rights when it’s convenient. It’s easy to pile on a powerless golf instructor like Hank Haney, but where were the two most influential voices in golf – Tiger and the PGA Tour – during the fight to allow women to become members at Augusta National?
I was there covering the Masters in 2003 when Martha Burk tried organize a protest of Augusta National because of its exclusionary policies regarding women members. Both Tiger and the PGA Tour did nothing of substance to force Augusta National’s hand. If Tiger had decided to boycott the tournament back then, Augusta National would not only have allowed one woman to join; it would have allowed in entire groups of women.
At the risk of becoming irrelevant without Tiger playing the tournament in his heyday, the stodgy, old Green Jackets would have quickly caved and invited the Bangles, the Go-Go’s, the Pointer Sisters, TLC, the Dixie Chicks and Diana Ross and the Supremes to all become members of Augusta National!
As I wrote back then: “Didn’t Tiger once make a TV commercial where he complained, ‘There are still places I can’t play because of the color of my skin.’ Yes, Tiger, and there are still clubs your mother can’t play because of the content of her chromosomes.
“Most country clubs would probably get the benefit of the doubt on the gender issue, but not Augusta National. You cannot separate sexism and racism – not here. Has Woods forgotten that Augusta had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 20th century when it allowed its first black member in 1990? If Augusta members had their druthers, Tiger wouldn’t be swinging the clubs today, he’d be carrying them.”
Remember what then-Augusta chairman Hootie Johnson said back in 2003 when trying to deflect the “woman issue” (his words, not mine) by explaining how “single-gender” clubs are part of the “American fabric”? He backed his premise by pointing out a list of single-gender clubs like, for instance, “sewing circles.”
Yep, he actually implied that women should stick to “sewing” and leave golfing to rich and powerful men.
What Hootie Johnson said 16 years ago is much worse than what Hank Haney said a few days ago.
Too bad, Tiger and the PGA Tour didn’t have the guts to stand up for women back then when they really could have made a difference.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Mike Bianchi is a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel.
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