Tiger Woods’ squeaky-clean reputation has helped him become the richest athlete in history. Counting both on- and off-course aspects of “Tiger Inc.,” it makes sense that the golf star is America’s first athlete to reach billionaire status. But as the saying goes, behind every great fortune is a great crime.
In 2008, Chevron entered a five-year relationship with Tiger Woods’ foundation under the guise of philanthropy. But if Woods had a shred of social conscience, this partnership never would have existed. Lawsuits have been issued against Chevron for dumping toxic waste all over the planet. Alaska, Canada, Brazil, Angola and California have all accused Chevron of dumping. Even worse, Chevron has a partnership with Burma’s ruling military junta on the country’s Yadana gas pipeline project, the single greatest source of revenue for the military, estimated at nearly $5 billion since 2000.
Ka Hsaw Wa, co-founder of EarthRights International, wrote in an open letter to Woods, “I myself have spoken to victims of forced labor, rape and torture on Chevron’s pipeline — if you heard what they said to me, you too would understand how their tragic stories stand in stark contrast to Chevron’s rhetoric about helping communities.”
Then there is Dubai, site of the first Tiger Woods-designed golf course. Located at the southern coast of the Persian Gulf, Dubai has been a symbol of economic excess and, most recently, economic collapse. It is also a city that has been built over the past 30 years by slave labor. Additionally, Dubai also has a reputation as ground zero of the global sex trade. The project cost $100 million, and Woods said nary a word about his benefactor’s practices. This is business as usual for Woods who would sooner swallow a five-iron than take anything resembling a political stand.
Now that Woods appears to have been involved in a domestic dispute, the media are wondering if there is “another Tiger.” They are desperate to pillory the man for his personal problems. It would be more appropriate if they took this opportunity to scrutinize him for the right reasons. Woods has every right to keep his personal problems personal. But when he makes deals that benefit dictatorships and unaccountable corporations, all in the name of his billion-dollar brand, he deserves no privacy.
— Dave Zirin is sports editor for The Nation magazine.
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