Nike, the global mega brand, unveiled a new Tiger Woods commercial just in time for the Masters. The new spot features rapper Schoolboy Q, who asks the question “What would you be willing to do to chase your dream?”
This is on brand for Nike, which sells aspiration. You too can be great if you’re willing to give a little more and dig a little deeper in the face of adversity — in Nike apparel and shoes of course. A fine message, but against the backdrop of golf with the juxtaposition of Woods and Schoolboy Q is an interesting choice.
— Nike (@Nike) April 7, 2022
After the initial question is asked, the remaining 45 seconds are a montage of a preternatural 2-year-old Woods on “The Mike Douglas Show” hitting golf balls, a prescient teenage Woods talking about discrimination, and a triumphant Woods winning major championships, including five Masters titles.
A series of questions about strength and perseverance are asked and then at the end, “Would you open doors for people like me? For people like us?” As the music fades you see the phrase “Tiger would” above the TW logo.
The question is, would he?
Woods burst onto the PGA Tour in 1996 after a stellar collegiate/amateur career. A Black man strolled onto the lily white golf courses across America and dominated them like nobody’s business. His late father Earl said he would do more for humanity than any man.
“Tiger will do more than any other man in history to change the course of humanity,” Earl said in 1997, the year Tiger won his first Masters by a record 12 stroke margin. “He is the Chosen One. He’ll have the power to impact nations. Not people. Nations.”
That is a ton of pressure and expectations for a sportsman. He’s just a golfer. Maybe the greatest of all time, but changing humanity?
His mother Kultida agreed that her son was very special.
“Tiger has Thai, African, Chinese, American Indian, and European blood,” said Kultida. “He can hold everyone together. He is the Universal Child.”
Of course none of those lofty expectations came to pass, because who could honestly live up to that? But Woods did make the game of golf cool and relatable to Black and brown people. During his prime and to this day Tiger resonantes in the culture, even though he has stood apart from the culture. We embrace him despite him never truly embracing us.
Through his presence in the game, excellence on the course, and his foundation he has done good for some minorities. But golf remains a bastion of whiteness, and the number of Black golfers continues to fall.
Seeing a hip-hop artist like Schoolboy Q in that ad, asking about opening doors is funny. How many country clubs in America would open their membership for the “Oxymoron” rapper?
Golf is still an exclusive sport that limits access. Schoolboy Q loves the game and has the means to access it. How many others do?
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 6, 2022
Two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry committed to fund the Howard University golf team for six years. That’s something tangible. That will open doors.
At 46, Woods is who he is and will support the causes he feels are important. Through his foundation, launched in 1996, he has reached over 2 million students and counting. Black and other minority children have benefited from the Earl Woods Scholar Program and TGR Learning Lab.
No doubt Woods has opened some doors. Has he opened enough for Black people, given his place in the sport and global consciousness?
Woods is playing in his 22nd Masters this weekend. The five-time champ suffered a horrific car accident and almost lost his leg in 2021. After his opening round 1-under 71 on Thursday, at times it looked like he never left.
It’s Tiger Woods at the Masters, and we will all be watching.