Monday, December 14, 2009

Tiger Woods and the Morals Clause

By Alan Caruba

“Accenture takes very seriously its business ethics, corporate governance and transparency of operations. Our board of directors authorized the creation of our Ethics and Compliance program. Led by our general counsel, the program is designed to:

# Foster the highest ethical standards amongst Accenture personnel.

# Be effective in preventing, detecting and appropriately reporting and addressing any allegation of misconduct and violations of law by Accenture personnel.”

You can find this statement on the website of Accenture, a management consulting firm for whom Tiger Woods was its celebrity avatar. His image is no longer on their website because Accenture announced it has severed its relationship with the sports star.

No doubt Accenture’s general counsel reviewed the contract it has with Tiger Woods as regards his personal behavior, otherwise known as “the moral clause.” As we are learning, Tiger’s morals off the greens weren’t just a lapse of judgment, but a serious breach of appropriate behavior before and during his marriage.

Off the greens, Tiger’s life was truly the stuff of tabloids. In time, however, he will find forgiveness or just the fatigue people will have with the story. In the short term, however, those corporations and other enterprises associated with his name will want to sever relations or distance themselves.

Regrettably Tiger’s scandal is all-too-familiar. He has joined the ranks of former President Clinton, Governor Mark Sanford, former Senator John Edwards, former Governor Elliot Spitzer, and talk show host, David Letterman.

We live in one of the most sex-drenched cultures on the face of planet Earth. Sex is used to sell everything. It suffuses fashion, music, films, and sports. One can hardly watch television without commercials promising improved sexual performance and warning against the hazards of four-hour erections.

Tiger Wood’s performance on the greens has always been spectacular. That’s not Tiger's problem. His problem is the moral clause and it’s there because few suspected Tiger Woods had an appetite for porn stars and Nordic beauties, but just in case he did.

It can be argued that, until it was made public, it was none of our business, but no highly public figure can or should ask for our approval at the same time they are breaking one or more of the Ten Commandments.

Having spent my life as a public relations counselor, I can tell you that whoever is advising him is now engaged in a full scale review of every single thing written or said about him. This is being done in an effort to assess when the media feeding frenzy will peak and then begin to loose its ability to inflict further damage. That’s not likely to occur for months.

At some point Tiger will return to the tournaments that made him a millionaire, but he is not likely to return to the commercial affiliations that made him a billionaire.

By then his wife will have divorced him and moved back to Sweden, taking the children with her. Nothing can heal that marriage.

In time the public will grow tired of his apologies and be content just to watch him play. But they will never look at him quite the same again.

The morals clause will preclude the big endorsement contracts; the major paydays are over. Instead, he will have to win tournaments and, if he does, the current sordid mess will eventually fade sufficiently to let him live a more modest and, hopefully, a more moral life.

We all have a morality clause in the contract we call life. It's there for a very good reason.


jeebas said...

You just cannot measure everything on a tangible index. Celebrity gossip sells like hot cake and the question of morality takes a back-seat when some of them are exploited for cheap media publicity.

Alan Caruba said...

Tiger's reputation was and is intangible, albeit based on his extraordinary golf skills...what people think of him from now on in light of the many women in his life is something else entirely...and intangible, too.

He is, like all celebrities, a commodity to be marketed and sold.