Tiger Woods has been in the news a lot lately.
▪ Last week, he posted a picture -- without shirt -- while lobster fishing with his kids that showed, if nothing else, he has kept himself in shape while he’s been away from professional golf.
▪ On Tuesday, Woods agreed to plead guilty to reckless driving stemming from a May incident when he was found unconscious at the wheel under the influence of prescription medications. Woods, 41, will enter a diversion program to allow his record to be wiped clean. He’ll spend a year on probation, pay a $250 fine and court costs, attend DUI school and perform 50 hours of community service.
▪ But Woods was also in the news this week for not being in the news.
This week, the Undefeated released a list of the top 50 black athletes of all time. To get the project started, the website partnered with Survey Monkey to poll more than 10,000 adults, asking them to rank 200 athletes (for full detail on how it was done, click here).
In the end, plenty of familiar faces made the cut.
Woods, however, did not.
Former Wake Forest star Tim Duncan is No. 50; Stephen Curry, who grew up in Charlotte, is No. 28 (one spot ahead of LeBron James).
Two gymnasts -- Gabby Douglas and Simone Biles -- rank in the top 10, ahead of Magic Johnson (No. 11), Gale Sayers (20) and Usain Bolt (14).
All of those rankings are sure to spur debate, but in anything that uses a public vote, these things will happen. And it’s difficult to argue the top 3: No. 3 Muhammad Ali, No. 2 Jackie Robinson and No. 1 Michael Jordan.
But leaving Tiger Woods off the list? That really seemed to get people talking (it should also be noted that former Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, professional boxer Floyd “Money” Mayweather and former Major League Baseball MVP Barry Bonds were also personas non grata on the list).
ESPN’s Michael Wilbon wrote a piece that also appeared on the Undefeated (which is under the ESPN umbrella), where he said he couldn’t support any list that didn’t include Woods.
“Let’s get something straight,” Wilbon wrote. “Any ranking of the greatest black athletes ever that doesn’t include Tiger Woods is not something I can get behind. This list...could be called ‘50 Great Athletes People Admire Most’ or ‘Americans’ 50 Favorite Black Athletes.’ But it ain’t a credible list of the greatest if it doesn’t include Tiger. You can dislike Tiger and you can dislike golf, but if you fail to acknowledge his competitive brilliance, his dominance of the oldest sport on the planet, his impact culturally, athletically and economically, then you should recuse yourself from weighing in on an effort to rank the greatest black athletes. There’s no responsible definition of “great” in the context of sports that Tiger Woods doesn’t fit. Any conversation that isn’t driven by personal agenda couldn’t put him any lower than 10th.”
Twitter, as they say, was lit. And most seemed to side with Wilbon.
Fox Sports’ Shannon Sharpe said Woods should have been No. 1 on the list.
“We know he said ‘Calibanasian,’” Sharpe said of Woods’ infamous comment to describe his bi-racial background. “But when they took him to jail, we know which box he checked. ...He should’ve been No. 1 because he was the most dominant. He had what they call the Tiger Slam. He had all four majors, not in the calendar season, but he had all four on his mantle at one particular time. Michael Jordan didn’t make little black boys pick up basketballs and go to the black top. Tiger made black men go get golf clubs.”
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith disagreed. He didn’t think Woods should be ranked No. 1. Smith, citing Woods’ distancing himself from his race, should not have been ranked at all.
“You also don’t want to see an individual who doesn’t want to identify themselves with their own blackness,” Smith said on ESPN’s “First Take” debate show. “If you don’t want to identify yourself with blackness and the plight that comes along with it, it doesn’t take away from your greatness as an athlete, but it doesn’t put you above those who are willing to embrace it.”