ORLANDO, Fla. — One day after a racially insensitive cover graphic of a noose snowballed into a national controversy, Golfweek magazine replaced its longtime editor and vice president, Dave Seanor.
Golf.com first learned of the decision on Friday morning from a source on the staff of the magazine who was not at liberty to speak for attribution. Golfweek then issued a statement confirming the report and naming Jeff Babineau, a senior writer, as the new top editor.
“We apologize for creating this graphic cover that received extreme negative reaction from consumers, subscribers and advertisers across the country,” said William P. Kupper Jr., president of Turnstile Publishing Co., the parent company of Golfweek. “We were trying to convey the controversial issue with a strong and provocative graphic image. It is now obvious that the overall reaction to our cover deeply offended many people. For that, we are deeply apologetic.”
Golfweek’s cover story ran with the headline “Caught in a Noose?” and was about the now infamous “lynch” remark made by Golf Channel anchor Kelly Tilghman during the network’s broadcast of the Mercedes Championship two weeks ago. The sub-title said, “Tilghman slips up, and Golf Channel can’t wriggle free.”
On Thursday, the cover about the controversy became a controversy in itself. The Tour’s commissioner, Tim Finchem, sternly criticized the publication.
“Clearly, what Kelly said was inappropriate and unfortunate, and she obviously regrets her choice of words,” Finchem said in a statement. “But we consider Golfweek’s imagery of a swinging noose on its cover to be outrageous and irresponsible. It smacks of tabloid journalism. It was a naked attempt to inflame and keep alive an incident that was heading to an appropriate conclusion.”
The story began during the Golf Channel’s broadcast on Jan. 4 when analyst Nick Faldo joked that the young players of the PGA Tour may have to gang up on Tiger Woods to compete with him. His co-anchor, Kelly Tilghman, agreed and suggested with a laugh that Tiger’s young rivals “lynch him in a back alley.”
Tilghman later apologized on the air and directly to Woods. Mark Steinberg, Woods’s agent at IMG, dismissed the incident, saying that Woods and Tilghman were friends and the comment was not malicious. Still, the network suspended Tilghman for two weeks after the controversy became a story outside the golf world and the Rev. Al Sharpton called for her dismissal.
Golfweek, one of two U.S. weeklies devoted to the game, has removed the cover from its Web site and copies of the issue from its booth at the PGA Merchandise Show, the golf industry’s annual trade show, which is happening this week in Orlando.
“You can’t say ‘Sorry’ enough,” Babineau told Dan Patrick on his radio show. “We had several mockup covers. One had Jason Day on it. If we had to do it over, we wish we could put that one out … I don’t think enough thought was put into it. The noose was there to depict Golf Channel’s tough situation. More of us connected the image of the noose to that.”
Asked about the editor’s firing, Babineau said, “It was something we had to do to show people we’re very sorry. A very good friend of mine lost a job and it’s a tough pill.”