Lynch Tiger?: Par for the Course

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[Speaking Truth To Power]

Golf Channel commentator Kelly Tilghman has been suspended amid calls by Rev Al Sharpton that she should be fired, over her “lynch” Tiger Woods “joke.”

The controversy started when Tilghman and analyst Nick Faldo were debating during the Mercedes-Benz Championship last Friday, about who among young golf players were capable of challenging Woods. Faldo suggested that “to take Tiger on, maybe they should just gang up for a while.” To that, Tilghman replied that the best thing was to “lynch him in a back alley.”

The Golf Channel responded days later by stating that Tilghman's “words were hurtful and grossly inappropriate” and that “there is simply no place at our network for language like that.” The company added, “we have decided to suspend Kelly for two weeks, effective immediately.” 

However, the company insists Tilghman’s comments were “inadvertent” and “that she did not intend them in an offensive manner.” Mark Steinberg, Wood’s agent asserts:  “Tiger and Kelly are friends, and Tiger has a great deal of respect for Kelly.” He claims that the matter isn’t an issue and that “regardless of the choice of words used, we know unequivocally that there was no ill-intent in her comments.”

Say what?

Rev. Al Sharpton demanded that the station fire Tilghman. “Are we at the point where you can talk about lynching and then walk away like it doesn’t mean anything?” he asked.  Remember Jimmy “the Greek” Snyder’s infamous statement that “the Black is a better athlete to begin with because he was bred to be that way” during slavery?
Tiger’s agent now says because Tilghman, who is white, is Tiger’s “friend” they consider this a “non issue in our eyes.”

Joking about lynching is a “non-issue?” Question: don’t Tiger Woods and his handlers understand that this degrading insulting “joke” is much larger than any offense, or lack thereof in this case, that they might feel?

This past year, in the aftermath of the Jena Six Case in Louisiana, we witnessed the prevailing ugliness and deeply rooted racism systemic to American society, with the proliferation of nooses: swinging on a school tree in Louisiana; from the office door of a Columbia professor; and, even in a Hempstead, Long Island police precinct.

Given these realities how could Tilghman think that a “joke” about lynching, because she is supposedly Tiger Woods’ friend, wouldn’t be insulting to other Blacks? Is she so obtuse that she doesn’t understanding that the history of lynching signifies the era in America of the mass murders of African Americans?  Between 1882 and 1968, a Times column noted, citing the N.A.A.C.P and the Chicago Tribune, there were 5,000 lynchings.

Untold thousands of Blacks in this country were butchered, burned, castrated and lynched for the entertainment pleasure of whites. Not too long ago, lynching Black males was a white family affair in America complete with spectators.

In an excerpt, from the great lynching photography book “Without Sanctuary,” Leon F. Litwack noted that “in most lynchings, the white press and public expressed its solidarity in the name of white supremacy.”

In fact, many newspapers often defended these blatant murders of Blacks as a backlash against supposed Black lawlessness, usually, followed by fictitious baseless stories of white women being raped.

The great revolutionary African American journalist Ida B. Wells exposed these lies in her 1895 work “A Red Record.” Wells proved through her detailed documented examination that the cry of “white woman rape” was nothing more that a diabolical lie used to justify the wanton murder of Blacks.

She astutely argued that the real reason for the lynchings was to stymie Black economic progress in the South which threatened the pockets of a white supremacist populace. She also noted that white women willingly engaged in secret sexual relationships with Black men. Remember the Scottsboro Boys?

But the topic of lynching, and anything related to racism or slavery, is always avoided by white America. Tilghman like many in this nation, including those in the offices of white media where there are few Black reporters or editors, remain either clueless to this history or, hopelessly insensitive to the humanity of Blacks.

That is why so many can show up to forcefully picket and protest Michael Vick’s treatment of dogs, yet remain silent when unarmed Black men are shot down with 41 or 50 bullets.

The people at the Golf Channel showed the world where they stand. It was only several days later that they even decided that a two week suspension was appropriate disciplinary action. Why discipline her at all then if the company officials accept her remarks as a joke?

Tilghman, like Imus and Jimmy “the Greek” before her is just a mirror of American sentiment towards Blacks. Given golf’s history of exclusion isn’t this all just par for the course?

Benjamin is a member of The Black Star News's Editorial Board

Editor's Note: Readers please e-mail this article to all your friends and then call and also have your friend's call Golf Channel president Page Thompson and demand that Tilghman be fired. Golf Channel. 7580 Commerce Center Dr Orlando, FL 32819 Phone: (407) 355-4653

Launched in 1995, by media entrepreneur Joseph E. Gibbs of Birmingham, AL, and golf legend Arnold Palmer, The Golf Channel is available in more than 90 million homes worldwide through cable, satellite and wireless companies, according to its website.

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