KAUPULEHU-KONA, Hawaii (AP) — Jim Thorpe sharply criticized a magazine editor who was fired Friday for displaying a noose on the cover of Golfweek to illustrate a Golf Channel anchor’s use of the word “lynch” in commentary on Tiger Woods.
“That was absolutely stupid. That was just throwing fuel on the fire,” said Thorpe, one of two black players on the Champions Tour.
“Why would you do that? He knew better.”
The 58-year-old Thorpe has won three times on the PGA Tour and 13 times on the Champions Tour. He was tied for second Friday after the first round of the 50-and-over tour’s season-opening MasterCard Championship.
“It’s a shame we live in a world today stuff like that still occurs,” he said.
Dave Seanor, Golfweek’s vice president and editor who took responsibility for the noose cover on the Jan. 19 issue, was replaced by Jeff Babineau, 10 days after Golf Channel anchor Kelly Tilghman was suspended for two weeks for the comment.
Thorpe defended Tilghman, whom he knows personally. He said her comments weren’t intended as a malicious statement. He said the anchor could have used many different words instead, but chose the wrong one.
“We know there was no racist intent. It was just a bad choice of words,” he said. “But the guy from Golfweek? Let him get barbecued. That’s just a major mistake on his part.”
Turnstile Publishing Co. president William J. Kupper Jr. apologized for the cover that he said received extreme negative reaction from consumers, subscribers and advertisers across the country.
“We were trying to convey the controversial issue with a strong and provocative graphic image,” he said. “It is now obvious that the overall reaction to our cover deeply offended many people. For that, we are deeply apologetic.”
Turnstile is the parent company of Golfweek, which has a circulation of about 160,000. The magazine devoted four pages of news and commentary on the topic, including a column on the back page supporting Tilghman and asking that the controversy be kept in context.
The episode began Jan. 4 during the second round of the season-opening Mercedes-Benz Championship when Tilghman and analyst Nick Faldo were discussing possible challengers to Woods.
Faldo suggested that “to take Tiger on, maybe they should just gang up (on him) for a while.”
“Lynch him in a back alley,” Tilghman said, laughing.
Golf Channel issued a statement four days later to say it regretted the comment and that Tilghman had apologized to Woods. But when the Rev. Al Sharpton demanded on CNN that she be fired, Golf Channel suspended Tilghman for two weeks.
Thorpe said Tilghman does not deserved to be fired but understands the strong reaction her comment has generated.
“I do understand point from a minority standpoint or an African American standpoint that things like that has to be approached because we need to leave the past in the past,” he said. “But for him to come out a week or two later and do something that stupid. … He can’t be that stupid today.”
Woods, who will make his 2008 PGA Tour debut at the Buick Invitational, has not spoken publicly, although his agent said in a statement through Golf Channel last week that Woods and Tilghman are friends, and “we know unequivocally that there was no ill intent in her comments.”
Thorpe expressed some concern about the impact of the racial controversy on the great sport of golf, which he called a “gentleman’s game.” He noted that he’s never felt discriminated against in all his years in the sport that treats everyone equally.
“If you could play golf, you were going to get paid,” he said. “It made no difference what color you were, what religion you are. If you can go out there and play, they’re going to write you a check and pay you. That’s the bottom line.”