The Tiger Woods Incident: Was It Domestic Violence?

If so, pundits say the famous couple owes America an explanation--and wife Elin Nordegren should pay for the crime

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Until he crashed his Escalade into a neighbor's yard during of Friday morning, Tiger Woods managed to keep his private life fairly private. Post-crash, every detail of his private life is the object of obsessive public speculation. The big theory now is that his wife, Elin Nordegren, attacked him after learning about an extramarital affair. But if Nordegren really did assault her husband, columnists say the golfer's pleas for privacy are not only futile, but wrong. They say it would be irresponsible for Tiger Woods to stay quiet about domestic violence, and they argue that Nordegren should pay the price if she committed a crime. Does the couple owe America an explanation?

  • Tiger Can't Lie to Protect His Wife At Slate, Hanna Rosin says Florida's tough domestic violence laws have Tiger worried his wife could end up in jail. But if she's guilty, Rosin says she's likely to pay the price. "Because of Florida's domestic-violence laws, admitting to the police that Nordegren in any way harmed him would virtually guarantee that the glamorous Elin would be led out of their mansion in handcuffs, even if he protested it." Rosin says there is a double standard when it comes to gender and domestic abuse.
It is impossible to imagine Tiger occupying the same cultural brain space as Rihanna, with Nordegren playing Chris Brown. If Tiger had been chasing down his wife with a golf club and she had shown up with bruises, even if she had cheated with, say, K-fed, we would be a lot less ambivalent and complacent. If Nordegren had then issued a statement calling her husband her courageous savior, we would be outraged and filled with disdain and pity. All of these gender-dependent reactions make some instinctive sense. But legally speaking, they are beside the point. The law no longer makes the distinction.
  • Tiger Should Be An Accountable Role Model At The Root, Jimi Izrael things Tiger is "stiff-arming the cops because he doesn't want them to take pictures of his injuries." But "if the final explanation for this event turns out to be domestic violence," he says "police will not need a statement from Tiger, and his wife will have to go to jail for assault." Izrael wants the couple to live up to their responsibilities as role models:

    They can do one of two things: Get some counseling and be role models to other couples in turmoil, or continue to stonewall and soldier on without comment, and taint Tiger's image while living in a dysfunctional relationship. Tiger wants to keep it a private matter, but he's living his life in the public light. It's one thing to guard your privacy. But when you hold yourself up as a role model, you have an obligation to be accountable to people who look up to you.

  • Did Nordegren 'Go Ghetto' On Woods After Learning of an Affair? Jacob Berstein of The Daily Beast says that story is a more plausible one than the thin version offered up by Woods. Still, he says people who know Nordegren are "confounded" by the idea that she "may have 'gone ghetto' on Woods after allegedly hearing that he was having an affair." When Woods took the blame in his public statement, Berstein wasn't convinced. "If this was true, why had a neighbor, and not his wife, called the police? What was she doing with that golf club that smashed the back window of the car? Was she trying to free him from the vehicle? How on earth did this happen?"
  • If It's Domestic Violence, It's a Public Issue At The Daily Beast, Wendy Murphy says "there's no exception for the pretty people." She says there should be no double standard when it comes to abuse. "If the rumors pan out that it was a case of domestic violence, and that Elin scratched Tiger's face and whacked his car, then it's a domestic-violence case, a quintessential 'public' matter, no less so than violence in the middle of Main Street. And there's no exception for the pretty people."
  • Come On Tiger, Come Clean Foster Kamer of Gawker thinks it's fairly obvious what actually happened. "Basically, they got into an argument, she went all crazypants, beat the shit out of him, he got in his car, she smashed his window, he tried to get away, he backed into a tree and a fire hydrant."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.