The Tiger Woods sex scandal: an analysis of image repair in sports
In the world of public figures, high-profile athletes may be the most highly scrutinized. These men and women hold the precarious distinction of both celebrity and hero. Many times they are asked and expected to live their lives in the same manner that they play their sports; with extreme discipline and dedication. In today’s world of ubiquitous and viral news coverage the ability of these athletes to escape even the most innocent of human failures is nearly impossible. In this regard, an athlete’s image has become one of his or her most highly volatile possessions. This study attempts to shed more light on the nature of image repair in sports in today’s society by studying and testing the image repair strategies used by Tiger Woods after revelations of multiple affairs surfaced in the fall of 2009. Qualitative and quantitative content analyses were conducted to determine the use of Benoit’s (1995) image repair theory (IRT) strategies and their effects on the perception of Woods as seen through the eyes of YouTube users who commented on the video of his public apology posted by CNN on February 19, 2010. Two thematic analyses were conducted as part of this study. The first pinpointed strategies used by Woods in his apology speech. The second thematic analysis grouped comments into emerging themes to better understand the motivations behind users’ reactions. All user comments were coded for positive or negative reactions, and tests were conducted to determine both frequency distribution and significance.