Tiger Woods: Golfer or Inmate?

'Vanity Fair' cover shines harsh light on golf's (former) golden boy

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© 2010 by Annie Leibovitz; all rights reserved; N.Y.C.

Tiger Woods’ fall from grace has certainly been mercurial. Since the post-Thanksgiving revelations that the golf phenom (listed as one of B.E.’s Top 50 Most Powerful African American in Sports in  2005) is a serial philanderer, he has lost millions of dollars in endorsement deals and taken an “indefinite break” from golf.

And now the golden boy is gracing the cover of next month’s issue of Vanity Fair magazine looking like a thug in a revealing image captured by photographer Annie Leibovitz. Gone is the image of the refined, straight-laced Woods, replaced by perhaps his true inner (stereotypical) self?

Last month, the majority of respondents in a Black Enterprise poll said they wouldn’t let the controversy influence the Woods-endorsed products they buy, but after seeing this image that could change.

Back in 1994, Time magazine also portrayed a heralded African American sports star in a harsh light. For its June 27, 1994, cover, the magazine’s editors digitally darkened O.J. Simpson’s mugshot to make him appear as a sinister, menacing black man. Time was forced to apologize for the manipulation after Newsweek published the same unaltered photo on its cover.

My question to you is this: was Vanity Fair fair in its portrayal of Woods, or did the magazine go too far by portraying him as someone who might be more comfortable in the prison yard than at the Masters Tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club?

Deborah Creighton Skinner is the editorial director of BlackEnteprise.com.

  • Robert Mead

    A prison yard??? No tattoos, bullet/stab wounds, or even facial hair. Tiger Woods looks like any other physically fit athlete posing (#fail) for a magazine cover. The Tiger Woods story is so old, and frankly of no interest to me as a black man, golfer, Black Enterprise reader and subscriber. How about a story on the “Best Stocks for 2010”?

    • Good morning, here’s a link to our article on “Where to Invest in 2010.”


    • Alfred Edmond Jr.

      I’d buy that “physically fit athlete posing for a magazine cover” line if this was Men’s Health or Muscle & Fitness. After all, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson is on the current cover of Muscle & Fitness; he’s built his career on living the thug life. However, this is Vanity Fair. It would be incredibly naive to think that their goal was to portray a physically fit athlete.

      • Robert Mead

        ‘Their goal”???? Tiger Woods posed for this photo! Prior to the recent revelations (which is when these photos were taken) surrounding his infidelity Tiger and his people cultivated and guarded his image more than any athlete before him or since. Tiger clearly wanted this side of his personality exposed. Vanity Fair or Annie Liebowitz didn’t and COULDN’T force or coerce Tiger to takes these photos! Why are we blaming the messenger? Who’s really being naive Mr. Edmond?

        • Not saying what their goal was. I’m sure I don’t know. I’m saying what their goal wasn’t. Vanity Fair’s editorial mission is not to portray physically fit athletes.

        • Robert Mead

          I don’t know what their goal was either (other than selling magazines in a depressed print environment), I just said that he looks like any other physically fit athlete vs, INMATE as the
          title of this piece suggests. If this picture were on Mens Fitness, Flex, Men’s Health, or even Golf Dogest I suspect Black Enterprise wouldn’t make this a lead story. Again, Tiger posed for this cover, lets stop acting as if Vanity drugged him, and forced him to take the picture, This is a Tiger Woods story and NOT a Vanity Fair story. They unlike Black Enterprise have garnered considerable interest and sales for thieir print product by doing what they always do….releasing provacative and interesting cover shots for their magazine. Clearly they’ve achieved their mission.

    • Sara

      I am so tired of this story about Tiger Woods. Finally, he now knows that he just an African American Male who has made more money than his white competitors!!! Tiger should get on with his life and get back on the Golf Course and kick butt!!! All of the photos and pictures of the women are getting on my nerves. Instead of beating up on Tiger say something about the morals of the women who slept with a married man! Tiger could not have an affair if the women were not agreeable. Something must be said about a woman who would sleep with a married man!!. Women should stop being caught up and learn to say no to these men who only want you for sex and stop selling yourself so cheap that you must tell all to get attention. Tiger is sjowing just how inmature he is and he should just grow up.

    • RLwhite

      If you have to be told why you should be concerned of this depiction, well you are a lost soul. Do you see any of the white folks who fall from grace, shown as thugs or criminals? Enough said, he is the best thing to happen to golf, see were the revenue and the crowds go now! Let this man get his life back together, we all sin and fall short of God. I would say these word if he was black or white.

  • I think they have him looking like an inmate. However, Tiger is posing for the picture, so if he was fine with the set up, I guess that is all that matters.

  • BJL

    This picture may end up helping Tiger professionally in the long run. I think Tiger would have tarnished that “golden boy” image sooner or later. I think people need to see Tiger for who or what he is, — a grown man…with faults, vices, and bad habits — subject to mess up. If he’s able to make the transition in the public eye successfully, and keep winning majors, the world will embrace the Tiger 2.0. Mean mug and all.

  • Tim

    Interesting cover for Vanity Fair, although I’m not surprised. They should have a similar cover for any Black man who is vilified, because that’s the image many psychologically resort to even if they’re unwilling to publicly acknowledge it. Anytime a Black man is beloved by society, someone is always awaiting the opportunity to discredit him in some way.

    I agree there are more important things to talk about than the mistakes Tiger has made, but Tiger caused this on himself. Where’s that one brother who would have told him when he needed to ‘pull up’. Someone that is not there to judge him, but to be a friend that will watch your back to keep you out of trouble.

    Tiger Woods is still fine with me. He made the mistake many men and women make everyday. The difference is that he’s the #1 golfer in the world. Also he is now official Black. 🙂

    Watch how everyone jumps back on the bandwagon when he returns and starts to destroy people on the golf course. He has something to prove now. I would not want to be competing against someone who has something to prove, because they’re difficult to beat in any sport or situation.

    BJL had it right in my opinion.

    • RLwhite

      right on !!!!

  • It is natural and perfectly understandable if women view Tiger more harshly or more critically now than men. But I want to make the distinction between a mistake and a bad choice. A mistake is when you accidentally grab the pepper when you meant to grab the salt. A bad choice is purposely and knowingly doing something you know full well you shouldn’t do. A mistake is inadvertent, a bad choice is just that–a choice, albeit not a smart one. Sleeping around on your wife is a bad choice. It is not a mistake. Recognize.

  • kris

    This image was shot 2 years ago. But aside from that, anyone familiar with Annie Liebowitz’s work knows that she takes provocative portraits for a living. Remember all the stir of the Miley Cyrus VF cover, Demi Moore naked and pregnant, or Tom Ford with 2 butt-naked actresses.

    I’m so tired of everyone turning everything into vilification of black men. I’m not in denial that it hasn’t occurred many times in history. But in this instance, I simply see this cover for what it is: To provoke us into buying the magazine because we are seeing a different side to the athlete/celebrity. That is what VF is about. (period, end of story) If they showed him in a suit, preppy outfits, or any boy next door looks, it would look like GQ or Golf Weekly. . just another magazine. VF is about behind the lights and camera and getting to the heart and soul of politics, entertainment, society, etc. I’m sick of all this Tiger Woods mess. Just play get back to playing golf. .

    • Robert Mead

      I couldn’t have said it better myself! I’m so glad to see that someone else “gets” it.

  • Brian

    This is so stupid. This is the reson people don’t take racism seriouly.

  • Tonya Edmond

    I find i tmore interesting that the public and media have such an insatiable appetite for the Tiger Woods story. There are many other athletes, black and white who were unfaithful to there spouses. The photo seems to be an exclaimation to the public that no matter how elite or educated black men are considered; they are perceived as primitive and unyielding of sexuality. Tiger Woods agreed to pose for the picture, however he cleverly chose not to use them at the time they were taken. The media and news outlets did the same thing with the photos of President Obama smoking and with the fedora (I can only reason it is to subtley remind everyone of how really black they are). If a white athlete took the same type of photos it would be just called art and considered edgey cool.

  • AP

    I don’t see a thug; I see a physically fit athlete posing for a magazine cover.

    There are a multitude of real racial issues to concentrate on, why do we focus in on something as petty as this?

    The picture was shot 2 years ago, and seriously does anybody really truly buy Tiger as a thug?  Com’on son!

    Yes Tiger was wrong in the way he handled this personnel affairs; but my biggest question concerning the whole Tiger Woods issue is why is no one saying anything about this women hitting this man with a golf club?

    Yes her husband cheated on her, but that does not give her the right to assault her husband!  Tiger is also a victim here!  He’s better off without her, she could have easily killed him!

    I can guarantee you that if a famous woman had cheated on her husband and her husband responded by beating her, that woman would be viewed as the victim by the media!

    Not saying that Tiger was right….but there is a double standard!

  • Hal

    I have always loved Tiger for his skill. He makes me want to become the best I can be everytime he wins a tournament. I too cheated on my wife when I was younger and suffered a divorce as a result. I was wrong as was Tiger. He will pay for this as I did . Then he will pick himself up and reach new heights and along with him I will take that journey. Yes I see a thug in the picture or at least a thuglike Tiger but I know we all pose as gangstas from time to time.Tiger is a prep school boy for life who loves rap music thats all.

    A lot of us brothers are just like that too.So Tiger please come back and rememeber we love you and we already forgave you a long time ago. Just maybe next time spare some wood for the sisters too!

  • R Ealom

    It is amusing when “Do Gooders” can find room to complain. As a 65 year old Black American Male I have found that most of us , especially those who make a living being critical and finding fault of others should be very careful. There is an old saying “People who live in Glass Houses should not throw Stones. The Picture of Tiger on the Cover of Vanity Fair wrong and doe not place the magazine or the photographer in a positive light.

  • R Ealom

    It is amusing when “Do Gooders” can find room to complain. As a 65 year old Black American Male I have found that most of us , especially those who make a living being critical and finding fault of others should be very careful. There is an old saying “People who live in Glass Houses should not throw Stones. The Picture of Tiger on the Cover of Vanity Fair wrong and doe not place the magazine or the photographer in a positive light.

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