Athletes Like Tiger Woods Are Right to Keep Out of Politics

Keep hitting the ball and contributing quietly.

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By Robert Schlesinger, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Jack made a good point this morning about the Tiger Woods-Jim Brown squabble. (Squabble? Has El Tigre actually said anything? Can you have a one-sided squabble?) Brown thinks Woods needs to do more in a social activism sense, and by do more he means speak up—be vocal, take a controversial stand (presumably safe stands are not what he's talking about), get in people's faces. (Be, in other words, Jim Brown.) As Jack ( and, in the Post, Michael Wilbon) points out, Woods has made huge contributions—substantive and symbolic—to disadvantaged kids.

But beyond Woods's actual contributions lies the question of whether it makes sense for him to start weighing in vocally on political or social justice issues. And more broadly whether it makes sense for any athlete (or other kind of entertainer) to do so. And there are pretty good reasons for Tiger to keep his political views to himself. As Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk (now with peacock feathers!) opined last week:

...one thing we've gradually learned over time is that nearly all of you prefer this site to be apolitical, since you follow sports as a diversion from the red state/blue state stuff.

So maybe that's why Tiger Woods javascript:openWindow("and Michael Jordan have focused when in public only on those things that the public pays them to do.  When we want a fix of politics, we each know where to find it.  When we want to get away from that crap (and, in many cases, it is indeed crap), we turn to sports.

Athletes, especially big stars, who stray into politics risk their livelihoods because they risk annoying some large segment of their fan base who either disagree with their politics or are annoyed that politics is intruding upon their entertainment. ( Lesser stars, this Jets fan adds, apparently have more leeway in this regard—of course the beauty, and horror, of the information age is that not only is everyone entitled to their opinion, but everyone is entitled to everyone else's opinion and people can sink or swim on the merits of their argument.)