Did Tiger Woods Suffer a Hate Crime?

This article is from the archive of our partner .

The facts of the Tiger Woods scandal seem relatively clean-cut: he cheated, he lied, he's paying for it. What's less clear is why Tiger isn't defending himself against unrelated accusations from his former kindergarten teacher, Maureen Decker. Dave Zirin of The Nation explains how in 1997, Tiger claimed that that he had a racial epithet spray-painted on him during his first day of kindergarten while "the teacher really didn't do much of anything." On Friday, this teacher Maureen Decker held a press conference asking Tiger for a "a private and public apology to put my mind at ease and set the record straight."

Zirin hopes Tiger does set the record straight, urging him to take use his statement to the Augusta National press corps. (Tiger didn't.) Zirin writes, "Tiger should be indignant at the mere thought that he would lie about something so searing, so inhuman, and so utterly tragic." He believes Tiger is telling the truth, but argues it's the athlete's "duty" to "explain himself." The reason, he says, is that there's much more at stake than the recent sex scandals

Most of us could care less about Tiger's mistresses and his trainwreck of a personal life. That affects no one except himself, his family, and the various parasites connected to his billion-dollar brand. But Ms. Decker's accusation actually has a ripple effect that touches far too many lives. If Tiger was the victim of a hate crime, he needs to bravely own the experience and tell the world that Maureen Decker is the worst kind of liar: a teacher who didn't protect a child and is now using the fog of the sex scandal to seek public redemption. But if there is a shred of legitimacy to Maureen Decker's accusation, then Tiger has an absolute duty to explain himself. The implications would both damn the legacy of Earl Woods and further complicate our understanding of Tiger's decidedly unusual childhood.

I don't believe it because the entire marketing strategy behind Tiger, and masterminded by his father, was to make him an avatar of post-racial "Cablinasian" commercial nirvana. Earl once said that his goal for Tiger was to be, "the bridge between the East and the West."... Being a hate crime victim doesn't fit this utopian script. Unless Earl Woods was a sociopath, Tiger must be telling the truth. 

If Tiger did experience racial violence as a child, does he have a duty to "set the record straight"?

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.