President Donald Trump has made a practice of targeting sports leagues and athletes who publicly challenge his agenda and criticize his political tactics as racially divisive.
NBA stars and NFL players who kneel during the national anthem are among his favorite targets when he seeks to stoke fervor among his base.
Tiger Woods sidesteps Donald Trump controversy
Tiger Woods had the opportunity to weigh in on Trump Sunday after finishing well out of contention at The Northern Trust when a reporter asked him the following question:
“At times, especially 2018, I think a lot of people, especially immigrants are threatened by him and his policy — what do you say to people who might find it interesting that you have a friendly relationship with him?”
Woods’ response was a lot more Michael Jordan than LeBron James.
“Well, he’s the President of the United States,” Woods replied. “You have to respect the office. No matter who is in the office, you may like, dislike personality or the politics, but we all must respect the office.”
Woods, Trump have history
At first glance, Woods’ response is surprising in light of other athletes’ willingness to take Trump to task. But when considering his history with the president and his tendency to stay mum on social and political issues, it’s not a stunner.
Woods, like several other prominent professional golfers has golfed with Trump and spent time with him off the course as well.
“Well, I’ve known Donald for a number of years,” Woods said. “We’ve played golf together. We’ve had dinner together. I’ve known him pre-presidency and obviously during his presidency.”
Woods joked about Trump before he was elected
Woods has also golfed with former Presidents Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Barack Obama. In October 2016, weeks before Trump was elected, Woods joked with Stephen Colbert on CBS’ the “The Late Show” about the golf games of former presidents (4:10 below) and gave a coy response when asked about Trump’s skills on the links.
“You said presidents,” Woods said with a straight face before breaking into a smile.
So while his 2016 remark in a lighter setting implies that Woods may question Trump’s fitness for office, now that Trump is in the White House, he appears to be making the business decision of staying out of the fray.
It’s the stance Jordan took as the world’s most visible athlete and a sneaker icon during the 90s, choosing to keep his political leanings close to the vest.
While James, Stephen Curry and Gregg Popovich lead the way for sports figures refusing to back down to Trump’s divisive rhetoric, Woods is prioritizing a neutral stance over a political one. Golf is a sport traditionally played by white men with money and has very different audience than the NBA.
Woods prioritizes business
As the sport’s most visible figure, challenging Trump publicly, even if he privately disagrees with his policy, would be a risky move for Woods. It would immediately put him in Trump’s crosshairs. Going after a sitting Republican president is simply not good golf business.
He made clear on Sunday that protecting that business was more important than taking on challenging issues. Asked again to discuss politics after entertaining the initial Trump questions, Woods shut the door on letting the conversation continue.
“No,” Woods replied when asked if he wanted to share his thoughts on race relations and discourse in the United States. “I just finished 72 holes and really hungry.”
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