What should Tiger do? Or, at least, what should he say today when he speaks in public for the first time since his fall from grace?
After a sustained silence while he purportedly went to therapy for sex addiction, Woods will say a few words to a small group of associates and media at 10 a.m. CST in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. They will be his first public comments since crashing his SUV into a tree at his Florida home on Nov. 27.
But he won’t be taking any questions. His agent has said the appearance is not a press conference.
Can Woods, 34, redeem himself? And if so, how?
"He’s gotten off to such a slow start, it’s unfortunate," said Gene Grabowski, a crisis counselor for professional athletes, corporate executives and celebrities, including Roger Clemens and Rosie O’Donnell. "He has taken a baby step in the right direction by going in front of the news media. But by not taking questions and trying to control this process, he’s behaving like he’s calling the tune when, in fact, he should be facing the music."
Above all, Tiger has to apologize, Grabowski said. "He has to say, ‘I’m sorry. I let a lot of people down. It was the wrong thing to do. I spent some time thinking about it and getting some help. I’ll be a better person. Here are the charities I’m going to work with.’ And then he should take four or five questions."
Grabowski, who works for Levick Strategic Communications in Washington, D.C., said one of the best-played public reckonings came from New York Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte, when faced with allegations about steroid use.
"He held a news conference," Grabowski said. "He said he took steroids twice, said he was sorry, took a couple of questions and then moved on. Nobody has bothered him since."
The difference with the Tiger Woods debacle is that it involves personal deceit, as opposed to violating the rules of professional sports.
But it’s all the same to the public, Grabowski said.
"If the golf community feels you’ve deceived them, it amounts to the same thing," he said. "Tiger Woods is an icon to children. Mothers and fathers are going to be keeping images and information about him from their kids. That’s a big blow."
Tammy Kidd, a local attorney and legal media consultant with Media Masters, agrees that Woods should answer questions at some point — but in a controlled environment.
"If I was working for him, I wouldn’t put him out there in an open press conference," said Kidd, who is helping lawyers representing Conrad Murray — Michael Jackson’s former doctor indicted in his death — with their legal and media strategy. "I think a smart move would be for him to take some friendly questions from people who are sympathetic, who are going to help him come back from this. Do you use Springer or Oprah? You use Oprah. She’s obviously sympathetic to him."
Beyond that, Kidd agrees with Grabowski that a big-time apology is in order, along with an admission of an addiction or disease.
"He cannot just go out there and make a statement like, ‘This is private,’ " Kidd said. "That isn’t going to get him very many points … He needs to apologize to his wife, children and the public. And he probably needs to admit to some type of disease. He has to say that something was controlling him, and it wasn’t just a matter of bad judgment."