I’m ambivalent on Tiger Woods receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in the grand scheme of world issues. It’s an award. A special one at that. And he probably would have gotten it at some point in his life.
The timing seems odd a week before the second major of 2019 given that Woods seems to be back into his win-at-all-costs mode and in a year he has a phenomenal chance to pick off another major or…three.
But he’s only mildly superstitious compared to other athletes, and it’s not exactly an award you can ask to be delayed. Nor is it a ticker-tape parade down Broadway.
The timing could also be viewed as a negative given that Woods should receive this award both for his contributions to sport and culture, but also because of the foundation he has established with already-tangible results in changing lives. So far, it seems like his charitable work has been getting little play in the build-up to today’s 6 pm ET ceremony from the White House (that will be carried live on Golf Channel).
In today’s NY Times front page story by Annie Karni and Kevin Draper, the odd business ties between Woods and Donald Trump are revisited, as are some of the past ties between presidents and medal recipients.
But by honoring him, the president leaves the appearance of using his office to reward a business partner.
“Tiger Woods is obviously a very talented golfer,” said Aaron Scherb, the director of legislative affairs for Common Cause, a watchdog group. But Mr. Trump awarding him the Medal of Freedom “shows he’s willing to use any tool of government to benefit his business and political allies.”
The White House defended Mr. Woods’s selection. “The president thinks Tiger is not only a tremendous athlete but also has a great comeback story,” said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary. “He is undisputed as one of the great golfers in history and has broken barriers in the game.”
Both the story and the press secretary never once mention the Woods foundation efforts. Again, not a huge shock and maybe not appropriate until the ceremony takes place, but it’s also a disappointing element to what should be a primary reason for receiving this prestigious medal. If it ends up just being a chance for the President to enjoy positive attention off of Woods’ Masters win, that will be a shame.
The Morning Drive gang’s discussion touched on the Medal making Earl Woods’ declaration many years ago look a bit more prophetic: