The Business Ethics Blog

(By Chris MacDonald)

Chris MacDonald

Chris MacDonald
January 12
I'm a philosophy professor who specializes in business ethics. My blog ( is about business ethics. I also blog occasionally at,, and


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FEBRUARY 19, 2010 11:19AM

Tiger's Apology

Rate: 15 Flag
Tiger Woods just held a press conference, making a 14-minute apology for his transgressions.

The apology itself was point-by-point perfect, so perfect that it's hard not to imagine that it was the product of professional PR advice (not that there's anything wrong with that — if I had his profile and were in his situation, I'd seek expert advice at this juncture, too.)

He offered two very different explanations for his wrongdoing, explanations that are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but just very different.

Woods' first explanation was that he had succumbed to temptation. The particular explanation he offered was that he had allowed himself to believe that the rules didn't apply to him, and that he had allowed himself to think that he had earned the right to enjoy the temptations around him. (As I've discussed here before, there's reason to think that excuse-making, and in particular the process of making exceptions for oneself, is a key component in various kinds of wrongdoing.)

The second, very different, explanation, was a medical one. Though he was vague about this, Woods said he had spent most of the last 2 months in treatment, receiving counselling and therapy. (Roughly, it seems the implication is that he suffers from addiction — namely, that he's a sex addict.)

I don't know (and the talking heads on TV don't know either, regardless of what they say) which of those explanations is correct, or whether there's some truth in both of them.) But it's crucial to see how different those 2 explanations are. The first is basically cognitive: the implication is that Wood had formulated a certain kind of argument in his head, namely an argument that said that he was subject to an exception to the rules he said he himself believed in. The second explanation is, roughly, biomedical — roughly that there is something, presumably something subconscious, in Tiger's head that makes him behave wrongly.

Now, Tiger Woods' wrongdoing was primarily not a question of business ethics. His wrongs were largely personal wrongs. But the question of what makes people do bad things is an important one in business ethics (and in other fields). So it's worth considering: is the cognitive (excuse-giving) part of his explanation plausible? Is it sufficient? And to the extent that it resonates with what we know about other cases of wrongdoing, does it point to a strategy for reducing the frequency of wrongdoing in particular contexts?

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Q1 ... absolutely plausible ... been there, done that

Q2 ... sufficient in that it's an admission ... I guess something that's critical in those "step" help processes

Q3 ... huh? ... gonna have to reread the last question several times to figure-out what's being asked.
I'm getting really sick of people calling the choices they make, "addictions" Sorry but cheating on your wife, the mother of your kids, is NOT an addiction, he CHOSE to go down that road. Why doesn't he FOCUS on repairing his personal relationship with his WIFE and stop making these fake public apologies. Just ewww.
Sex with someone who is not your wife is not "bad." It is normal mammalian behavior.
All these men (John Edwards, Bill Clinton, Elliott Spitzer, Tiger Woods....) engaged in NATURAL human behavior. When we pathologize what is natural, THAT is lying.
I can't wait to see Tiger back playing golf and WINNING.
This corporation/man has had extensive media training and a very large PR firm behind him. No one at this level does this kind of exposure on their own. And it's nothing personal. This is business, protecting the brand. There are a lot of people who depend on the revenue this corporation/man generates.

This is just crisis management and every corporate has a bible for this very purpose. The UK media loves to destroy...the American media loves this too, but the difference is, America loves to forgive, and yes, you will forgive this man. Later, much later. The reinvention campaign will be timed properly and yes, it will be televised. But not now, there is too much collective shame to
sling at him, he is the new whipping boy for the sins of the world.

So, go Tiger go! F**k til it all falls off! Who cares. You're not the first man to destroy a family and you're not the last.
I agree with LadyMiko. At the risk of taking some heat, I'll say that I don't believe in sexual addiction, period. Not in Tiger's case, not in any case. One's sexual conduct is behavioral. It's a choice. It's not an addiction. It makes a convenient excuse: I couldn't help myself, I'm an addict.

One interesting thing about that excuse is how it's convenient for anyone who's caught fucking around, regardless of political or religious beliefs. It works for the left, the right, the evangelical, and the secular. Sexual addiction is something they can all agree on--once they're caught.
P.S. And I don't care, actually, who fucks whom. It's Tiger's business. It's just not an addiction.
This is flatly wrong.

Tiger Woods NEVER said he was ADDICTED. PERIOD.

He said he was in therapy. Psychotherapists treat people with behavioral problems that aren't addictions. Ever hear of cognitive therapy? Bad habits? Behavioral therapy? Insight oriented therapy?

This is a particularly annoying post, since you take a Process that Woods used to deal with his problems and are using the fact that Woods is taking advantage of psychotherapy to assert that he is playing the addiction card.

Why this is particularly wrong is that politicians and other public figures are stigmatized if they use psychotherapy when it is obvious that it would be helpful to many.

To say psychotherapy=addiction or psychotherapy=mental illness just makes it worse.
Good point, Nick.

Being in counseling and therapy could mean any number of things. It could mean that he is trying to change his thought processes - his sense of entitlement, his ego, things like that.
Yes, he made a mistake, over and over and over and over again. He was just a horny guy taking advantage of his fame, and now he's going to whine about it. I don't care what he does. He apologized in public to all these people and the only one who REALLY matters is his wife. What a crock.
Good recap.
OK, fine. It's not an addiction. That's the term that's being bandied about among commentators. It doesn't matter all that much, for my purposes here. The point is that there are 2 different explanations being offered, and one of them is (roughly) a medicalized explanation.
oh the web we weave when that little voice says cut that corner.
sounds like it was a joy. yeah. just not now. yeah.
Sigh... After John Edwards doing him the favor of getting him off the front page of the tabloids, you'd think Tiger would have the sense to just be quiet and hope the eternally short memory of the celebrity scandal would allow people to fixate on someone ELSE. Instead, here he is saying "YOO-HOO! I'm still here and my wife is still mad at me! I'm SOOO SOOO SORRY for what I did, and I should be forgiven because I'm an addict!" (Subtext, I also want more attention.)
I said it once and I'll say it again...I'm just tired of it all... I'd respect the guy a alot more if he'd just come out and say it...

''I'm an egotistical asshole... I have more money than god... and almost as much power... I enjoy horny little sluts with low self esteem who are drawn to a man who treats them like shit... I just play to win... no matter the game... no addiction no choice... it's who I am... this world still needs people like me... unfortunately we haven't evolved past this yet... so here I am... put me up on a pedastal than tear me down... I'm a liar... so are a lot men who are ''successful'' in this environment you all love to love, and hate... yeah I'm a scumbag, but that is what money and fame allows me... now I'm going to stand up here, lie to you some more about what a changed man I am, and then I'm going to go win some more golf tournaments...when thats not enough again I'll go find me another piece of the end you'll either love me, or hate me but hell, I am what I am... thank you very much and have a nice day....''

then again I guess he could have meant every word of that scripted sorry ass apology... who knows....
Tiger Woods doesn't owe any of us an apology. The whole affair is his wife's business. My concern with Mr. Woods begins and ends with his golf game, and since I don't follow golf, I really couldn't care less about that either.

I don't get this whole obsession with celebrity sex scandals. If they're politicians or religious leaders, that's one thing (although we're still way too concerned with their sex lives). But actors and actresses and sports stars? Unless they're raping people or having sex with children, it's not in any way our business.

Now, as to whether addicts (of booze, drugs, food, gambling, sex, whatever) "just can't help themselves", I don't know of a single reputable addiction therapy or group that claims this. Correct me if I'm wrong (I've never been addicted nor to an AA meeting or anything like that), but I'm pretty sure that two of the 12 steps are "making a fearless moral inventory" and making amends with those that you and your addictions have hurt. That's hardly letting an addict off the hook.

I don't think that the mark of a behavioral addiction is that you can't control your own actions, it's that you feel horrifically compelled to keep doing them even when you logically know that you shouldn't and that you don't exactly want to. I'm not sure if I'm phrasing this right or not.
Addiction is filled with choices. Anyone who tells you otherwise is rationalizing.
I see addiction. And, it looks like the DSM-IV of Mental Disorders is going to include Sexual Addiction in their manual this year.

From my own personal experience, recovery from addiction parallels closely with the five stages of grief. Tiger is in the very early stages.

I recognized two different behaviors in Tigers press conference. He said all the right things but spoke with very little authentic emotion about his infidelity and contrition. I saw an automaton that was void of feeling. The recovery process will raise all of this to a conscious state at some point and authentic feelings will follow. I pray for Tiger when he reaches this brutal stage of awareness.

I saw authentic emotion displayed when Tiger talked about the media and the paparazzi. He displayed true and conscious feelings and that is understandable because this area is not the least bit foreign to him.

I believe that the root of addiction is childhood abandonment. And abandonment can take on many forms. Tiger is going to discover a lot about his parents and his understanding and acceptance of what he discovers will take a long time to process.

When a 3 year old can go on Johnny Carson, act like a little adult and display a perfect golf swing, I would not consider that normal behavior for someone fresh out of diapers. Quite frankly, I consider that child abuse at the hand of his father and maybe even both parents. Correspondingly, when his mothers only public statement when all of this broke is "I am angry and disappointed at my son", I too find that to be unusual behavior. I think most mothers would react out of concern and sadness for their child and his family.

There are a lot of dynamics at play here that society in general is completely ignorant of. Rather than opine, condemn or vilify the man, I would suggest praying for him.
I think Leeandra and Stellaa are the only two who have said anything really relevant here.

Who the hell is Tiger apologizing to? Why? It's between him and his wife, why does it concern anyone else? If he has an addiction, if he doesn't have an addiction. Whether or not he's done a "bad thing" or not, and why he did's none of your f***ing business.

Nobody would expect an apology in front of the entire neighborhood from a neighbor who stepped out on his wife. Why does anyone expect one from Tiger Woods?

The fascination with Tiger Woods' and other stars genitalia tells me that too many people either have way, way to little of any substance going on in their lives, or they'd rather dissect other people's personality issues than examine their own.
ALWAYS a choice.

He sounded like someone working their way through a 12-step program.
Chris --

Too bad there's been some diversion from your original request-for-comments. The most interesting "on-topic" responses to me were from Nick, Leeandra, and Leslie.

After a little thought, I'm unsure how to answer your question as it is currently posed (either this or that). Meaning, there could be a physiological event that one ponders before acting/reacting, so I'm not sure if you can separate the 2.

In a very simplistic example, say you just received a bee sting and your body is in pain. As a way to vent the physical pain and frustration, perhaps you go out and destroy a nearby bee hive to make yourself feel better.

Now that bee hive could have been serving a good purpose -- pollinating nearly farm fields, supplying honey, etc. And the individual bee that stung might not have even belonged to the destroyed bee colony.

This is a case where a physiological event preceded a seemingly senseless planned action (which as "planned", means a thought process was involved).

Perhaps an adulterer has a physiological event going on within his body (insert several jokes here, but it could also be overwhelming stress or other physical symptoms besides blue balls) and thus, "rationalizes" his choice to engage in extra-marital sex.

That's my take on the situation and as such, I believe that (if sincere), the Tiger public apology was addressing what happened and how he's going to deal with it.
Very erudite analysis. Rated.

From a literary point of view, I found Woods rambling, repetitive, and often sloppy. For example, it's either "my misconduct" or "misconduct on my part," not "my misconduct on my part."

Now I know that Ms. Stellaa depends on me for pedantic corrections, and this time I can't resist. When she talks about "morays," I get all reptilian until I realize she's talking about "mores." That's one for the books, a mistake that neither spell check or grammar check can avert. Talk about bourgeois!
I still, for the life of me, can't understand why Tiger Woods feels the need to apolgize and/or give explanation to me or anyone else except his wife and family. I don't care. He is a golfer. A good golfer. That's the only thing he means to me, so why should I care about his personal life? He inspires me through his sport. That's what he means to "us"....get over it.
marriage is not for everybody....however...mass society has bought into as as 'the only righteous' path.....he is not the only man or woman to have made the mistake of buying into the fabricated dream...
Did Tiger goose Wall Street?

As I study rhetoric I believe that Tiger didn't apologize he just fell into the genre that depicts apology as terms that are in the category of apology.
Tiger honestly doesn't owe us the apology for his indigressions; he owes us the apology for the media manipulation. People used to keep their private lives private. When we deem it acceptable to share that privacy with the world we make it ok to perform such acts as press conferences to defend ourselves.

Last time I checked we weren't or aren't supposed to be on trial with a man for infidelity. Elin is the judge of that. However, with sponsorships and money, and athletic competition I'm sure the world needed to hear remorse. However, as a rhetor... it wasn't remorse it was an excuse.
great post though.. it got me thinking that sometimes things are taken to far and we create curiousity because in some way or another we know someone in the same boat.
We wish to take issue with a couple of points in Mr Woods' explanation that we find somewhat interesting and even amusing. In fact, we might argue that he is still not being entirely upfront with anyone, including himself. Agreed, he does not owe apologies to a soul other than his wife, and may have been better advised not to go through with yesterday's (limited) media event.

There was a third explanation offered, and that was the fact that he had found God or, more accurately, Buddha. Oh, how we howled at that one, only because it reminded us of the claims of so many individuals in our nation's prisons. Praise the ... oh, whomever.
The other point that might raise a cliched eyebrow was his contention that there was no violence involved on Thanksgiving night. No golf shots fired in anger? No broken rear windshield? Even Jesper Parnevik, a fellow touring golf pro who was no doubt well informed of the events of that night, being a former employer and confidante of Mrs Woods, said that she should have used a bigger club.

Tiger must take us for as big a bunch of fools as some of the young ladies whom he laid, uh, better make that "with whom he liaised."
"We wish to take issue"
"Oh, how we howled at that one"

Just who the hell is "we"??!!
What an imperious hemorrhoid you are who uses this pronoun.
Who the hell do YOU think you are, doing others' thinking for them?
Are you a bible thumper?

As for the entire Woods situation, as a man and a golfer, the one and only thing I am interested in is how he plays golf on the course.

Unlike "I'm a philosophy professor who specializes in business ethics." who has exposes himself as actually being into gossip, I am neither a salon/nat'l enquirer feminazi or an empty scrotumed self hater like some of those "males" here.
I want to see some great golf.
Finally, ^^^^5's to Stelaa as she said, let's compare his dick to someone losing their home.
We can easily discern the mental limits of those who prick, er pick the former.
Only on OS could a thoughtful post and sensible comments be subjected to such illiterate bile.

Even though Obama, the arrogant, prefers the first person singular, the preferred usage is the first person plural in the contexts involved here.

Stellaa, my sweet, as far as focus is concerned, your errors in English wouldn't challenge Mr. Magoo. However, you do provide me with wonderful comic relief from time to time in my purposeless life, and for that I thank you.
Is "Sex Addiction" actually an addiction? Don't know for sure, but I do believe there is some science behind it. Anything that changes your brain chemistry so that repetitive behavior actually has some biological drive behind it could, I suppose, be classified as an addiction.

In chemical addiction, there is both a biological and psychological component at work. A change in brain/body chemistry so that there is an actual craving/need for the substance in question...but once that craving is removed (through detox, abstinence, medical intervention, whatever), the psychological/spiritual hole that caused the person to want to use the substance in the first place remains, even more gaping than before. That's where therapy/counselling/12-step programs/religion come in. It's akin to a chicken- egg situation...except usually the psychic emptiness came before the subtance used to fill it, even if the person wasn't consciously aware of it.

As for whether or not Tiger Woods should apologize - really, he doesn't owe "the world" anything...the amends should be going to his wife, kids, mom, friends, business associates, etc. (and perhaps each of those mistresses he convinced were 'the one??'). But the truth is, a lot of sponsors spent a lot of millions on this man based on how he and his reps marketed him - as being a squeaky clean family man in addition to being a stellar athlete. A lot of people in a lot of businesses have lost a lot of money over this. The "public" part of the apology is really for hopes that they will want to reinvest in his brand some day.

In terms of "business ethics," one of the first things that occurred to me when this fiasco broke was something that nobody seemed to be writing about - namely, someone like Tiger Woods doesn't pull off this kind of epic infidelity without a whole army of help. This, to me, is where the ethical part comes in. If he is going to cheat on his wife, that's really a matter of personal conscience for Tiger. But the truth is, dozens (at minimum) of professional people involved in Tiger Inc. were involved in keeping this a secret for so long. You don't think his agent at IMG knew? His agent's assistants? The professionals who booked his travel? You don't think they all smiled and greeted Elin at tournaments as if everything were as perfect as they wanted it to appear, all the while knowing how he was deceiving her? In that sense, it wasn't just Tiger's ethical lapse. There were a lot of people who didn't rock the boat to keep the business running smoothly.

To me, that is a HUGE business ethics issue. I work in the entertainment industry and see this kind of thing happening all the time. I don't understand how agents, managers, assistants, accountants, etc. can simply agree to smilingly take part in the betrayal of a person so easily, just because it's "just part of my job."
The obsession with the Tiger Woods plays into the worst energies around. Go ask Greg Norman why he had an affair with Chris Everett. Not interested? Gee. I wonder why. This week the world faced a suicide plane into a building, Iranian nukes, and that health care thing. News outlets led yesterday with what ? Tiger Woods. Wall to wall Tiger. This is cultural slumming. Did you think Bill Clinton deserved a private life ? Then get off this.
The apology was part of treatment protocol to face the shame, take responsibility for how your actions have harmed self and others, and in this case to express and let go of resentments that impede recovery. Whether or not one believes in sex addiction does change the fact that in one form or another lack of control of sexual impulses has ruined many lives. The fact that he is returning to treatment suggest the possibility of a co-morbid diagnoses related to substances.

Now if we only had a treatment for the media's addiction to other peoples sex lives, their belief in their entitilement to stalk little children and their irresponsibility of reporting every rumor and giving a voice to every self-seeking Bimbo void of any confirmation or valid evidence, perhaps the public could be spared.

Mr Woods owes no apology to anyone other than his family and perhaps his corporate sponsors who are the only ones who have shown any clase throughout this ordeal. The media has exploited the Woods since childhood. He makes money for them. They need him not the other way around. As long as he is the best in the world at what he does and that is always a temporary position, the media parasites will continue to cling to the host.
GordonOsmond: You find Tiger wanting from a literary perspective? Dude. He's a golfer.
Any activity that alters the release of neurotransmitters into the bloodstream is addictive. That's why sex and gambling are addictive. We run around finding new and better ways to alter the chemistry in our heads, and when we get it right, we don't want to let go.
there is some biological evidence that all so-called "addictions" are actually related to sex addiction in the sense that similar or identical areas/mechanisms of the brain are at work. of course, the concept of sex addiction is controversial however. also, I believe there was recently a discovery of a gene that tends to correlate with promiscuity in men.
i posted a's no longer free speech on OS
oh I get. this is like a class exercise. what do they call that? a seminar?
"tiger did [x]. discuss"
its business ethics in the sense that he had contracts with many very lucrative corporations to represent them as the pitchman or mascot. he got largely rich off the contracts/endorsements, not so much the tournament winnings.
omg sorry my comment is still here..i apologize OS there is free speech, amen
I was sent some whine in my inbox.
Good thing I live in WI and, we have plenty of cheese.
I had commented on the imperious "Mr We" and his talking down to the group.
I need to thank him for the drivel he sent to my inbox as, I can always use a good laguh.
Here is his petty little rant~
"We regret that you take umbrage at our comment, and the way in which we chose to voice it. We were by no means being judgmental of Mr Woods, nor were we being imperious. This is a literary device that we sometimes use in attempting humor. Sorry you did not understand that, you born again moronic asshole.
It was signed,
or something like that.
Anyway, "we" found it funny.
I was "trapped" on the treadmill mid-workout when TW's apology was broadcast on CNN. On the one hand, at least he didn't try to insult everyone's intelligence by making the "addiction" claim. However, it begs the question: WHY is this news? The day before someone flew an airplane into a building, causing human injuries and the authorities are still trying to piece together a reason. Many of us are still stinging from losses on our retirement plans and there is unemployment nationwide. And, the most important news story that day was some golf guy who can't keep his pants zipped?

The confusion of priorities just boggles the mind.
Question: Has the infidelity of Tiger Woods really hurt anyone other than his spouse? I mean, besides the Tiger himself, of course.
Please stop this! It has raised gossip and judgement to a level where you would like us to believe it isn't just plain old gossip. Please shut the hell up!
His speech was great.. it made me cry.

I heard it on the radio.

He is a human being.. fallible.. plain and simple..

I agree with what he said about the intoxication of power.

I think the people are especially hateful to him, not because he's rich.. but because he's black.. and also he's married to a white woman.

And I'm white.
Victoria, he seemed contrite to me. Why is this any of our business?
I'm just waiting for the conspiracy theorists to confirm what is heard when they play Tigers apology backwards.

I've been listening and have heard "is my slave boy ready" and "Satan is my keeper"

... but then again I'm running low on my psych meds. :-)
To Cypher

Yeah, dude, he's a golfer--a golfer with a full panoply of writers, press agents, and public relations experts at his beck and call. Get real.
Um. Who the f*ck cares? Shi... I mean seriously. I have other crap going on. Screw this guy.

Ha. That was kind of funny.

What's the difference between a Cadillac Escalade and a golf ball? Tiger Woods can drive a golf ball 300 yards.

And that, is where the amount of brain space I am willing to dedicate to a guy who chases a little white ball for a living ends.

Gee, I'm so glad our priorities are straight.
XJS ... seems like the author is a pretty intelligent person to take a topical subject and frame an interesting question around it with the hope of producing a dialogue ... your contributions (in terms of any original blogs on OS) are ... ?

DSM ... to whom would you dedicate a fair "amount of brain space" to? ... Just wonderin', since the implication is that your personal mentors/idols/persons-deserving-of-your-attention are far more important. Please do humor us ... er ... um ... I mean "me" (don't want to get you angry, afterall, tough guy/gal/split personality entity)
On the off chance that anyone is interested, in the comments section of my off-OS blog, there are some useful comments on the question of addiction & judgment from a clinical psychologist.

First let me say the the people selling things in this comment section should be kicked off for life plus 30 years.

I have blogged on Tiger a couple of times and my theme is that it is none of my business. I do not stop at roadside accidents leering about someone's misfortunes nor do I care about anyone's sex life other than myself and partner.

People who use sports figures as role models are delusional. Chances are you'll use 'roids, get someone knocked-up, cheat on your spouse, and get an "F" in Algebra. Your role models should be our founding fathers, your demanding teachers, people like Abe Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Golda Meir, Indira Ghandi, Mohandas Ghandi, and Jerry Brown (I love him).

Enjoy Tiger Woods for his game. Let the media, the nosy bodies, and the size queens get a life.

Read me at:
I addressed the addiction issue at length in my own post titled, Homos and Nymphos

Not wanting to hijack your thread or anything.
I love this new concept of " Sex Addiction Therapy." What the heck is that? Do you sit with Ron Jeremy and watch some real bad porn? Give me a break. Sex addiction means you are a piece of crap narcisist. Everyone today seems to have some bull crap excuse for their actions.

Dr. Evan S. Levine
Many criticisms showered from Tiger Wood's apology. Likewise, many people aren't buying his words of apology and the likes. Also, I noticed that part of the Tiger Woods press conference was his mention of his Buddhist background – this might lead to more people getting a little more exposure to Buddhism in general – even if maybe a better role model for a Buddhist would be preferred, but that's neither here nor there – as Westerners usually don't get a lot of exposure to it, at all. Nonetheless, I hope Tiger could still fix the damage that he has done especially to his family.
I guess I'm more with Nick here than anyone else, though like Susan and Stellaa, I don't really care who screws who and I don't think it's any of our business.

One thing we can learn before we get old is that who we've screwed and how much or how many is far short of what determines the value of our life, our character or our identity.

If he is in therapy, at least it indicates he has found reason enough to understand himself. A few more folks turning in their narcissistic ways to become self-aware instead of following every egotistical impulse ought to be reason to cheer.

Like Stellaa, I'd be more interested in a discussion of the business ethics of those who've taken our economy on a death spiral ride to hell and are still being paid bonuses greater than I've earned in a lifetime of good work. Fuck them.
My apologies to the room for allowing XJS and Me to bait me into a pointless, can't-win argument at another's blog. I regret that anyone other the individual(s) and I were forced to lay eyeballs on the despicable language that I spewed, and I am sorry that it may have offended anyone, most of all Mr MacDonald, whose thoughtful writing did not deserve to be sullied by the childish behavior of a couple of us. Finally, I apologize to anyone who felt that I might be talking down to them.

In an effort to extend the olive branch to XJS and Me, we wish to invite him (them) to the club for lunch, next time in town, or failing that, to visit us "chez nous" (can't find the italics) whilst enjoying the Hamptons this summer.
Thank you all for your comments -- well, thanks to those of you that chose to comment on the topic at hand, rather than just to attack each other.