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In Hindsight: Reassessing Tiger’s initial apology December 20, 2009

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We now have the ability to see that Tiger Woods probably did not deal with his public relations crisis the way that he could have. Following news that he was facing a sex scandal, Woods released a statement on his own personal website at the beginning of December 2009 that contained the following statements:

“I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart. I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves. I am not without faults and I am far short of perfect. I am dealing with my behavior and personal failings behind closed doors with my family. Those feelings should be shared by us alone.”

“But no matter how intense curiosity about public figures can be, there is an important and deep principle at stake which is the right to some simple, human measure of privacy. I realize there are some who don’t share my view on that. But for me, the virtue of privacy is one that must be protected in matters that are intimate and within one’s own family. Personal sins should not require press releases and problems within a family shouldn’t have to mean public confessions.”

“I will strive to be a better person and the husband and father that my family deserves. For all of those who have supported me over the years, I offer my profound apology.”

By most accounts, Tiger’s statement was supposed to be a success. Michael Bamberger of Sports Illustrated, for instance, argued that the golfer’s admission to “transgressions” was perhaps too ambiguous but that the act of confessing would ultimately gain him public forgiveness. In Bamberger’s own words:

“[Now] he’s done what he shouldn’t have to do: admit it in public, just like Bill Clinton. Kenneth Starr trapped Clinton and the tabloids trapped Tiger. Both men were put in a corner where they had no choice but to confess. Many sane people will hold Clinton to a higher standard — he was the president of the United States — but Clinton has remained a beloved figure to many. I think Tiger will emerge mostly unscathed as well.”

For more on Tiger’s initial apology, see the following discussion that took place on The Golf Channel in early December:


Discussion Questions:

1.  Why were some initial evaluations of Tiger’s apology so positive?

2.  Knowing what you know now, why was the apology problematic for Tiger Woods?  What was the apology missing that invited more scrutiny?

3.  Had Tiger consulted you before writing his apology, what might have you suggested that he do differently?  What would have been the short-term or long-term consequences of your own strategy?

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