Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Tiger Woods is Plenty Active & Charitable [J. Mark English]

The other night on the HBO sports news magazine, Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, I caught a glimpse of his interview with Jim Brown and Bill Russell. Both players, fantastic in their day, were also vocally active in regards to the issue of race in the 1960's. They used their popularity as ball players to help advance civil right causes.

Today, Jim Brown acts disgruntled that current stars do not take the same opportunity to stand up against social injustice. In particular, he singles out Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan.

Just google "Michael Jordan" and "charity" and you will find countless acts of decency by way of charity contributions from Michael Jordan. He spreads his money wide and far. What more would Jim Brown have him do in an age where a person of color is the President of the United States?

Michael Wilbon of the Washington Post, defends Tiger Woods in an article he wrote today:

Tiger Woods may not want to be defended on this issue; he certainly didn't ask to be defended. But he's going to be, in this space anyway, because Jim Brown's recent comments to HBO that Tiger's social contributions are inadequate are way off base, even inaccurate. Just because Brown perhaps isn't aware of the depth and range of Tiger's contributions, or that they differ from his own social agenda doesn't mean Tiger is lacking a social conscience -- because he isn't. Don't get me wrong, I've admired Brown's activism my entire adult life. One of the unforgettable experiences of my life came during the 1992 riots in Los Angeles, when Brown, through his determination, concern and sheer force of personality, persuaded gang members from the rival Crips and Bloods to call a truce to the violence and talk out their differences at Brown's Hollywood home.....

....Totally misguided, Brown said to Bryant Gumbel recently that Tiger is "A monster competitor . . . he is a killer. He'll run you over, he'll kick your [butt], but as an individual for social change, or any of that kind of [stuff] . . . Terrible. Terrible. Because he can get away with teaching kids to play golf and that's his contribution."

....The Tiger Woods Foundation doesn't teach golf. Maybe Brown presumed it does because the Learning Center is attached to the course where Woods grew up playing as a kid....

....But it's not a golf academy. Brown should check out the list of courses kids can take there, such as engineering, robotics and marine biology.

A kid with a totally different orientation can get into animation and graphic art. There's an editing suite, a music studio, a computer lab for children who otherwise don't have access. It is technology based, also career and college based. The scope and effectiveness of this learning center ought to be praised, not wrongly dismissed as "teaching kids to play golf." And the learning center is just one part of Tiger's efforts.

When Earl Woods, Tiger's father, died a few years ago folks who wanted to do something were discouraged from, say, sending flowers and encouraged to make contributions to the Earl Woods Scholars program, so they did -- to the tune of $1 million. Tiger matched that with his own contribution of $1 million. The program has produced 25 scholars, 10 of them from the D.C. area, where Tiger is looking to expand his program. The foundation funds those students for up to four years. All 25 have mentors and internships guaranteed. They attend Georgetown, Florida A&M, Spelman, Penn State, UDC, Marymount, the University of Arizona, the University of Idaho.

Jim Brown might want to know they're not on golf scholarship.

The learning center in California, which opened in 2006, has had between 20,000 and 25,000 kids come through the doors. There are partnerships with schools that have come to depend greatly on the supplemental help the learning center provides. The one Tiger is trying to build here in D.C. can't arrive quickly enough.

Tiger Woods is too sophisticated a man to get into a public back-and-forth with the great Jim Brown. And beyond saying, "I think we've made our impact," Tiger doesn't attempt to specifically defend himself against the criticisms leveled by Brown and others. But I will....

But don't then demean the efforts and the results of a man who is answering the call already, in his mid-30s as Tiger Woods is. Brown should also remember, Tiger plays golf but he didn't grow up some kid who didn't understand the need for a conscience. As Tiger related to Charles Barkley and me for Barkley's book, "Who's Afraid of a Large Black Man?" in 2004, he became aware of his own racial identity on the very first day of school, kindergarten, when a bunch of white sixth-graders tied him to a tree, spray-painted the n-word on him and threw rocks at him when he was the only little brown child in Cypress, Calif. And his dad encountered a whole lot worse.

Just as important, Brown has to realize that the expression of social consciousness isn't a matter of people singing the same song. Jim Brown took on the Crips and Bloods, and a lot of other demons. Tiger Woods attacks the problem as he sees fit, through education, which has always been at the root of Brown's preaching anyway. And because men such as Brown and Earl Woods fought the toughest, bloodiest battles for decades, Tiger's approach to activism ought to be different.

Plowing the exact same ground would suggest Brown and Earl Woods made no progress, which we know isn't the case. We move on, probe for the newest ways to attack the old problems and new ones, too, using the most advanced methods we can find. People need to know that Tiger Woods's presence here in the D.C. area isn't only about golf. The moment Tiger announced he was hosting a tournament, the AT&T National, at Congressional Country Club , I suspected I knew why he wanted it here, specifically.

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