Dexter Rogers

Dexter Rogers

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Jim Brown rips Tiger Woods for lack of social activism

Recently on Bryant Gumble’s HBO show Real Sports Hall of Fame football player and social activist Jim Brown was asked about why today’s marquee African American athletes are silent on controversial issues. Brown took the opportunity to say how he feels about Tiger Woods lack of activism. He stated: "You know what's so interesting about Tiger to me? He is a killer. He will run over you, he will kick your ass but as an individual for social change? Terrible. Terrible because he can get away with teaching kids to play golf and that's his contribution. In the real world, I can't teach kids to play golf and that's my contribution, if I've got that kind of power."

In a watered down response to Browns’ comments Woods suggested his work with children through his Tiger Woods Foundation speaks volumes. He also stated he wanted “to do it the right way.”

You have an established athlete and activist in Brown calling out the darling of American sports in Woods for being too passive. Whose side are you on here?

Brown was a warrior who endured many bitter cruelties. He’s faced racism much of his life. During his stellar career at Syracuse University coaches initially wouldn’t let him play football because they tried to break his spirit and they wanted him to quit. We know it didn’t work.

Off the field systemic racism didn’t allow for him to room with his white teammates when they traveled. When Brown did get to play he shined and never looked back. He should’ve won the 1956 Heisman Trophy but he didn’t. Unlike President Obama Brown couldn’t get the white vote.

In playing for the Cleveland Browns from 1957 to 1965 he’s regarded, even today, as the greatest football player who ever lived. Off the field Brown was expected to be docile and accept racism. He didn’t. He routinely spoke out and rallied African American athletes to bring about change in American sport and society. You see, back in the day the African American athlete had to do more than play their sport: they had to bridge social gaps that these spoiled, ignorant, non-appreciative African American athletes like Woods.

There’s a reason why African American athletes make the money, have the endorsements, and the vast opportunities today. There’s a reason why the likes of Tiger Woods doesn’t have to worry about “Whites Only” in society and the golf courses he now dominates. There’s a reason why he can continue to make Phil Knight rich at Nike. Because athletes like Brown, Muhammad Ali, and Bill Russell, made huge sacrifices on the field as well as off it battling racism.

On issues such as racism, discrimination, and other items that affect the African American community Wood’s has publicly uttered nothing that would indicate he has a social conscious whatsoever. He’s stands on the shoulders of those African American athletes like Brown who endured the ugliness of systemic racism and the humiliation of Jim Crow.

Shouldn’t he have something meaningful to say?

Woods is a tiger on the course but a pussycat off it. I don’t think he’s utilized his platform to promote the type of change that’s needed in African American communities across the land. Yes, his Tiger Woods Foundation has done great work with children. But I believe he should lift as well as climb in other areas. He shouldn’t be afraid to speak up because Phil Knight will cut his money off. Knight can’t play golf. He needs Tiger more than Tiger needs him.

Brown and other African American athletes obviously didn’t make their sacrifices for money and fame. They pushed for the real change that was needed and not the type of meaningless change President Obama advocates.

At the end of the day I think Woods should speak out. It’s a way he can address controversial issues and not loose his fame. It’s easy today because all he has to do is play golf. He doesn’t have to beg the PGA to take down the “Whites Only” signs at courses. Due to the work of activists in and out of sports he can play where he wants.

Granted many youngsters aren’t aware of the past struggles African Americans had to endure. But I say the likes of Woods can attack their ignorance, be aggressive off the field, and promote real change. What’s controversial today is often forgiven tomorrow. Just ask Muhammad Ali.
Whether Woods will ever stop hiding behind his Tiger Woods Foundation and reading prepared scripts that keep the masses happy remains to be seen. I for one would love to see Tiger act like more of a tiger than a pussycat when duty calls


E.N. Jackson said...

Dexter, great piece. I have long since grown weary of Tiger's reluctance to identify with the black community while being more than willing to benefit from that community's hard work in making it possible for him to achieve what he has. It's like a slap in the face, and I don't understand why or how he and his father find this acceptable. Tiger continues to claim that he is "multicultural" and this is fine because yes, technically he is. However, in a society where race is STILL such a determining factor of who gets what in terms of success, access, and resources, he needs to realize (and accept)that he is black to the dominant culture. Not part this, half that, a quarter something else. Just black. Period. And if he doesn't get this, then someone needs to tell him. Quick.

Anonymous said...


My name is Sam Davis. Thank you for this piece. But let me present an idea that puts Tigers words and actions into a different perspective. He doesn't have to say anything. Every time he wins a tournament he beats the pants off of a field of, not only white players but the best of the best of the white players. Every time he drives the ball and chips a shot into the hole he says more in that one action then if he spoke for hours at an NAACP event. He's the epitome of the winner. And in my opinion if he used the winners circle as a political stump he would cheapen his accomplishments and actually perpetuate the mentality of victimhood. When he accepts the trophy and stands triumphant, the entire black community and the world see that triumph. They don't need any words at that point. The trophy speaks volumes. Especially when it's a major tournament like the Master's. That is not just another professional golf tournament. It is by invitation only and represents the BEST of the BEST players in professional golf. If Tiger wins the masters, what words are necessary?

Anonymous said...

If people really knew what they were talking about they would shut up. Tiger has said many times in
interviews about the racial incidences at country clubs when he
was growing up. He has also praised
Charlie Sifford for paving the way
for him. You have a certain group
of black folks that live victimhood
everyday. While the world and opportunities pass them by.