SBD/Issue 78/Sports Media

Golf Channel President Comments On Tilghman Suspension

In response to Golf Channel announcer Kelly Tilghman's two-week suspension for saying during coverage of the Mercedes-Benz Championship last Friday that young PGA Tour members should “lynch” Tiger Woods, Golf Channel President Page Thompson said, "I don’t know what she was thinking.  I found the comment to be offensive. No one here thinks that Kelly meant the remark to hurt Tiger Woods or anyone else, but the words were hurtful and that’s why she was suspended.”  In N.Y., Richard Sandomir writes, "Despite her apology to Woods on Saturday, Tilghman said nothing during the network’s four and a half hours on the air. She finally apologized on-air Sunday."  Sandomir: "That raises some disturbing questions. One, if she knew enough to apologize to Woods the next day, why not to the public? And two, if no one at the Golf Channel ordered her on Saturday to apologize (could the lynch reference not have been heard by anyone in the production truck?), why didn’t she approach her producer?" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/11). ESPN's Kevin Blackistone said, "I will give her credit for apologizing immediately. But the Golf Channel should be embarrassed for not reacting until after she reacted in the first place” ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 1/10).

WAS SUSPENSION WARRANTED? FOXSPORTS.com’s Jason Whitlock wrote Golf Channel “did the right thing” by suspending Tilghman.  While Tilghman is not  “some bigot extremist, ... she’s incredibly stupid and perhaps unqualified for her job."  But she should not be fired, as "she made a mistake, apologized to Woods privately and publicly and should be granted the opportunity to rebound” (FOXSPORTS.com, 1/10). However, Atlanta Constitution columnist Terence Moore said, “She shouldn’t have been suspended. The language police in this country have gotten totally out of control" (“Jim Rome Is Burning,” ESPN, 1/10). ESPN's Michael Wilbon said, "We cannot go around threatening to suspend and fire everybody for a bad sentence in a hot microphone on live TV" ("PTI," ESPN, 1/10). In Detroit, Kupelian & O’Hara write Tilghman is a "smart lady who said a dumb thing. It’s another example of a broadcaster looking for something dramatic to say when it isn’t necessary” (DETROIT NEWS, 1/11). TNT NBA analyst Charles Barkley said on The Dan Patrick Show, “I know Kelly. She is no racist. I called her and told her I know she didn’t mean anything to what she said.” In Oakland, Art Spander writes, “Kelly is bright and knowledgeable, but she wasn’t careful. The issue is sensitivity” (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 1/11). Toronto’s The Fan 590 host Bob McCown said, “A casual remark that was meant to be funny but was politically insensitive isn’t worth worrying about. We walk around in complete fear of what we can say and who we might offend” (TORONTO STAR, 1/11).

WHAT IS SHARPTON'S MOTIVE? In Chicago, Ed Sherman notes Rev. Al Sharpton issued a press release on the situation, the headline of which read, “Reverend Al Sharpton calls for Golf Channel broadcaster Kelly Tilghman to be fired or he will pickett (sic) the Golf Channel for employing him.” Sherman: “Not only was there poor spelling, but somebody didn’t realize Tilghman clearly is female. Gender would seem to be an important point. The blunder calls into question Sharpton’s agenda” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/11). Tilghman has not been fired, but in L.A., Tom Hoffarth writes, “Give Captain Al more time to tee off and he’ll get that taken care of, too” (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 1/11).

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