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The Tiger Woods Sex Scandal: Evaluating the effectiveness of Tiger’s silence December 6, 2009

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After news broke of the accident that left Tiger Woods unconscious and scraped up in his own yard on Thanksgiving night, the tabloids began to speculate what might have led to the mysterious event. TMZ, for instance, reported that Tiger’s wife had confronted him about rumors that he was having an affair and scraped his face before smashing his SUV with a golf club as he tried to flee.

Theoretically, Michael Bamberger of Sports Illustrated argued early on, Tiger’s initial silence might have worked as an effective response to the situation; he had a clean track record, the details of the incident were fuzzy, and high-profile athletes like him had eventually fallen out of the headlines after finding themselves associated with a scandal. Bamberger, and likely many PR experts, questioned the effectiveness of Tiger’s silence as more information about the accident emerged. Stonewalling when too many things did not make sense about the accident, these critics argued, only fueled curiosity. When one piece of news about the event leaked, there was more incentive to keep digging.

For more on Tiger’s silence, see the following video:

Discussion Questions:

1. When does silence work as a strategy in dealing with a scandal or crisis? Why is it risky?

2. Why did Tiger’s initial silence not work in repairing his image?

3. Is silence a better early image repair strategy than denial?  Why, or why not?



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