Kelly Tilghman, play-by-play announcer for The Golf Channel’s PGA Tour broadcasts, while bantering with Nick Faldo about young players who might challenge Woods she suggested that they “lynch him in a back alley.” I can almost hear her echoing her fictional counterpart, Ron Burgundy, when he said “I immediately regret this decision.”

Of course she came out with the requisite apology (two days later). Tiger’s representatives declared it a non-issue, but she was suspended for two weeks by the Golf Channel. This wasn’t the same as the Don Imus spewing-viciousness-for-its-own-sake situation. Nor was this Tiger’s first brush with folks misspeaking around him (Hello, Fuzzy Zoeller and your fried chicken and collard greens comment).

Yet my gut reaction was to essentially give her a pass for her slip of the tongue, after all, who among us hasn’t ever said something stupid that we (immediately) regret? The greater issue to consider in evaluating the situation is to recognize that such comments happen within a certain context.

First off, Tiger and Kelly are friends. Jokes you make within family that sound horrendous when someone outside the family hears them, much less, repeats them. We can speak one way with our “boys”, one way with our family, and another way in public/on the record. Still, we have to always be mindful: some language and images need a “handle with care” label attached to them.

Because, secondly, there is a greater problem of context: such comments will always be heard within the cultural-historical context of America, with its convoluted past involving slavery, civil rights, and race relations in general. The image of lynching harkens back to an unfortunate, to say the least, time in American history. Lynching is simply not an image to be taken lightly, but rather is akin to making a rape analogy and I doubt she would joke about that. Such a comment would be heard differently to different ears.

In short, it’s stupid and you can’t say it. However, I don’t think she should have been suspended. I think her apology should have stood on its own, she be reprimanded, and allow the conversations to be had about why what she said was a poor choice of words. We can’t police every bad sentence, because that would stifle conversations that still need to be had. We have a First Amendment right to make a fool out of ourselves, but more importantly, if we truly are to turn the page on this chapter in our history, we need to allow these conversations to happen and in so doing, we need to have thicker skins.

If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say “hi”, feel free to stop by my message board. We always welcome new voices to the conversation.