Tiger Woods has been embroiled in an infidelity scandal ever since he had a single-car accident in his driveway on November 27. What started out as an early-morning incident has escalated to 11 or more alleged mistresses, undermining the public “gentle family guy” image of his relationship with wife Elin. Woods – who is often hyped as the first billion-dollar athlete – is rightfully getting pummeled in the media for his indiscretions, and sponsors are increasingly skittish about their ties to him.
The golfer’s troubles are getting a tsunami of media coverage because he represents market value on two key fronts. For one, Woods dominates his sport arguably more so than any other U.S. athlete in a popular sport. The free market – which is the sum of consumer choices – has deemed his wife and mistresses to have higher market value because of their race and their looks. This draws more readers and viewers to media coverage of the unfolding drama, which helps the media’s own sponsors.
While NBA star Shaquille O’Neal has his own infidelity scandal, there has been little reaction from black America and virtually none from whites. This is because he (1) does not dominate basketball as Woods does golf; and (2) his black wife is deemed to have lower market value on the sympathy, empathy, and marketability fronts. The free market also often favors the unique and sensational – interracial marital drama, not to mention reports of rumored domestic violence on Woods’ wife’s part – over the typical interracial marital drama.
Woods’ decline in market value is due to his own choice to negatively putting his family in the limelight after engaging in racial stereotypes. While Woods regards himself as a multiracial “Cablinasian”, many if not most Americans consider him to be black. As Eugene Robinson claimed in his latest Washington Post column, it appears as though Woods was engaging in racial stereotypes through seeking validation “by bedding the kind of woman he thought other men lusted after — the ‘Playmate of the Month’ type that Hugh Hefner turned into the American gold standard.”
However, the trophy wife or mistress phenomenon is not new. Many high profile black men apparently believe that they haven’t “arrived” in status – i.e., have high value – unless they have a non-black woman on their arm.
While Woods’ case reinforces one racial stereotype, another one has possibly been turned on its head. Black American women – who Woods has long avoided, along with women from his mother’s Asian heritage – have historically been stereotyped as materialistic gold diggers, sexually aggressive, and possessing attitude. On the flip side, we’ve heard some high-profile black men claim that white women are “easy to get along with”, more supportive, and concerned about family more than money. Yet in Woods’s saga it is white women who exhibit the stereotypes associated with black women.
Allegedly, one of Elin Nordegren’s first demands after the infidelity scandal broke was a wealth redistribution scheme: she demanded that Tiger immediately transfer $5 million to an account that she controls and to renegotiate the pre-nuptial agreement where she stands to gain an additional $55 million. An increasing number of Woods’ alleged mistresses are accessing the free market via going to the U.S. – and even British – tabloids to sell their story. Some of the alleged mistresses are even upset that they weren’t the only mistress, taking financial retribution in their own way. They are selling “products” – voice mails, text messages, etc., featuring Tiger Woods – to the highest bidder and increasing their net worth off Woods’ name, due to his unfaithfulness.
Whether Woods decides to cut his losses and end his marriage because he can’t remain faithful or to work things through, hopefully he will re-evaluate his concept of self-value. Also, to see value in others, including his family (on whom he was so willing to risk everything for affairs) and alter his perceptions about the perceived market value of various women based on their race.