While Martha Burk was on the streets of Augusta, Ga., protesting the male-only policy at Augusta National Country Club, golf great Tiger Woods was likely on the driving range, preparing for the Masters, golf’s most prestigious tournament.
Woods, by far golf’s biggest star, has refused to endorse Burk’s claim that Augusta should allow female members.
His comments came months ago, when he essentially said that since the club was private, the club should decide who joins and who doesn’t.
He also said that any debate over the matter should take place in private.
Burk responded that if others had had that attitude, “[Woods would] be a caddie at Augusta.
He wouldn’t be a player.”
Woods’ non-committal, letter-of-the-law response had been a topic of widespread criticism.
Many argue that as a high-profile athlete, Woods has a responsibility to use his stature to further social change (I specifically remember watching an episode of ESPN’s Sports Reporters in which Tiger was highly criticized).
After all, Woods has almost single-handedly made golf popular within the Black community.
But now, with an opportunity to do more, Woods was keeping quiet.
Meanwhile, we are at war, an issue even more cantankerous and with more severe consequences.
And now when celebrities take a strong position, they are ridiculed.
When Michael Moore used his Oscar speech to protest the war, he was booed and whistled at.
When Dixie Chick Natalie Maines told a London audience that the group was “ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas,’ their songs were pulled from radio airwaves across the country.
And most recently, when Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder told a crowd in Denver that he was against the war, he was booed and told to shut-up by audience members.
After he impaled a mask of President George W. Bush, dozens left the show.
Michael Smerconish, on his April 4 radio show, said of the incident: “There is room for disagreement in this country on the subject of war, but Vedder was indecent.
No wonder they call it grunge.”
Yet in New Mexico, a radio station has paid for a roadside billboard where passing motorists can pullover, and for a $5 fee, shoot-up pictures of Saddam Hussein with paintballs.
In America, we are lucky to be guaranteed free speech by our Constitution. When one achieves celebrity status, this right is not lost.
Furthermore, with the exception of obscenity and fighting words, the type of speech is not regulated.
Just as it is these celebrities’ rights to voice their opinions, it is the consumers’ rights to boycott their merchandise.
And it is Martha Burk’s right to protest the Masters.
And it is Tiger’s right to say as much or as little as he’d like.
But we should be careful. It is not our job to decide who should speak-out based on whether or not we agree with them.
People should have the opportunity to voice their opinions, and it should be up to them to take advantage of it.
Jesse Chaddderdon can be reached at email@example.com.