By David Onjili
Behind the 18th green, in his trademark Nike top, Tiger Woods hugged his son Charlie Axel Woods, his mother, Kutilda, and other family members. His late father, Earl Woods, would not be by his side this time as he claimed his 5th green jacket. Fourteen years since his last, the world was elated for him; on his part, a small smile, a bump with his caddie and an acknowledgement of the crowd that cheered him on were all he did to celebrate.
This particular win was significant, and not just because almost everyone had written him off: the course is built on the grounds of a slave plantation and no black golfer ever competed there until Lee Elder in 1975. Woods’ win was also symbolic in the sense that this club never had a black member until 1990, as reported by The Guardian. Etan Thomas celebrating his win, noted that he wished Tiger Woods would use his clout to stand up for the black community too.
The significance of all this is that Tiger Woods has always admitted to being a long-time friend to President Donald Trump and even accepted a Presidential Medal of Freedom from him. On the night of his victory, Trump tweeted, “Congratulations to Tiger Woods, a truly Great Champion.” Perhaps justifiably, a section of Americans, especially among the black community, view Trump as a white supremacist. So, why does Woods feel so close to such a guy?
The question many pose to Woods on his seeming silence in the midst of injustice to the black community is, what good does it do to claim friendship with a guy who professes supremacy over his race?
Sports personalities have become extremely powerful societal models. England and Manchester City striker, Raheem Sterling, is an example of a star who is leading fellow footballers in standing up against racism in Europe.
Baseball star and San Francisco 48ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, has taken kneeling during the singing of the American national anthem to stand up against Trump’s bigotry. When it seemed like he was at the end of his career following a blackout by major league players, the National Football League (NFL) reached a settlement with him after he had filed a lawsuit alleging that NFL owners were colluding against signing him.
Basketball stars LeBron James and Steph Curry, indeed the entire Golden State Warriors, refused to attend a traditional White House meet with Trump as National Basketball Association Champions of 2018 because they felt, Coach Steve Kerr said, that Trump’s politics did not align to their beliefs.
After nullification of the presidential election in August 2017 in Kenya, the police meted out unmeasured violence to protestors, particularly in Kisumu and Nairobi. Appallingly, very few sports stars – notably then Tusker FC player and current St. Georges of Ethiopia and national team midfielder Humphrey Mieno – spoke out even as toddlers were murdered. Many chose to be politically correct and ask for peace, when they could have rebuked the state for mindless violence against civilians.
As society continues to evolve, sportsmen must remain conscious of the society in which they live. The influence they wield transcends tribe or caste, and if they spoke out many would listen.
This is not a call to activism but a reminder that sports is a universal language, and that sports personalities can influence positive change by speaking for the voiceless. (