Rhetorical Analysis of Tiger Woods' Apology
|✅ Paper Type: Free Essay||✅ Subject: Media|
|✅ Wordcount: 4811 words||✅ Published: 27th Aug 2021|
By the time he issued his apology speech Tiger woods had realized that his reputation was being tarnished by reports of adultery, domestic violence and unsportsmanlike behavior. He was right about his fame drop because at the time of his apology it had dropped from eighty five percent to thirty three percent. A positive reputation in the society is one of the most valuable assets that an individual can have throughout his life. This is because it makes a person feel confident and feel that he is playing an important role of influencing a certain audience.
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He was also falling in disfavor with sponsor companies. Most of the consumer product companies like to retain their spokes-personnel as long as they are able to influence their customers to buy the sponsored products and services. In the year 2008, Tiger Woods pocketed $131 million dollars for he was a spokesperson for great companies such as Nike and Gatorade. This value decreased during the first three months of his marital controversy because by February 2010 he pocketed only $ 1 million dollars.
This means that within 3 months of his marital controversy, he earned $31.8 million dollars as compared to three months in the year 2008. On February 19, 2010, Woods presented a public apology for his unsportsmanlike behavior to an extensive coverage by the media. In todays society, the praxis of apology is well established. As usual if a public figure is found in an embarrassing quandary that his significance in public life is in jeopardy, he then needs to make a single speech evaluating the situations, to defend his intentions, and to remind the audience of his formerly untarnished reputation and success, using almost unvarying methods and strategies to do so. In his speech, it is evident that Woods had followed this procedure. Linkugal and Ware stated that the audience in such a personal charge appears to be easily and completely contented by the personal responses of the accused. By mediated immediacy, in todays media, all the audience bears witness to personal actions of the celebrities. They usually feel like we know the person in question.
It was in late November 2009 when media reports all over the world started to talk about the extramarital affairs of Tiger woods, a renowned Golf player. In the consequent drama, Woods crashed his vehicle into a tree and a fire hydrant in an early morning incident. This is how the media speculation and furry about the accident in relation to his extra-marital affair grew in leaps. He later admitted the affairs but snubbed to give further comments saying that he regretted all his transgressions. He therefore claimed that the situation was ultimately personal and was a family matter. It was from that time there emerged several news shows and pundits to comment on his statement giving their opinions and criticisms.
The Rhetorical Situation in Woods Apology
Woods apology can be termed as a perfect apology despite of some aspects in his statement. To start with, he was reluctant to give any real explanation, but as an alternative, he talked in general terms concerning his irresponsible and selfish behavior. This can be regarded as important because the lack of an explanation left many people questioning whether he understood what actions were erroneous and why. He did not even mention whether he agreed that those actions were wrong. In addition, throughout the apology statement, Woods comments inclined more towards bolstering. For instance he provided details about how his foundation has helped the society. Again, Woods attacked his accusers especially the media for pursuing him and his family.
If we try to test genuineness in the apology speech we would find that Woods apology was not from the heart. This is because he read the apology rather than saying it from the heart. Reading means that the statement was not real. Some pundits complained that the way he read his comments indicated that he was not sincere. This is because if a person has to read words, his thinking goes, implying that he is not really feeling those words. Reading reinforces the whole belief that Woods apology was choreographed by his public relations people. In addition, he covered several facts in his apology. The fact that his apology was issued live meant that he had to make sure that he used the correct words to cover each point. We should ask ourselves this question: Would it be bad to read an apology that seems scripted or to forget or mis-state something? I think either way made media to go on with their coverage on Woods.
It is believed that a middle ground helped Tiger Woods to demonstrate his sincerity better. He read a short statement and then talked from heart. He never included so many points because it only took him 13 minute to deliver his apology. He later used his website and the social networks to expand some of his points. In addition we cannot forget the role of media in its speculation about performance enhancing drugs. Another criticism of Woods apology is that it was not a normal press conference. This is for the reason that there were no questions and media cameras were limited. This means that his comments went unchallenged and the journalists were not able to explore a number of transgressions including the car crash. Woods defended himself by saying that further details needed not to be discussed in front of the press and they needed to be left out for him to discuss with his wife. Lack of criticism brought up the issue of lack of third party participation.
While Woods made an attempt to quell such inquiries by stating that the details were a personal matter for him and his wife to discuss, the criticism about the lack of questions brings up the issue of participationparticularly third-party participation. An extra notable criticism of this apology is the fact that it was tightly controlled. As stated earlier in the essay, no questions were allowed and cameras were limited. As far as these criticisms relate to prohibition of third party participation we cannot deny the significance of power in apologetic rhetoric.
What is an apology?
An apology can be defined as public speech that is produced whenever a high-flying person tries to repair his character after it has been damaged by his or her negative behavior. There appears to be differences between the branches of discourse in an apology. Even though rhetorical analysts put it in the forensic subdivision of rhetoric, when it comes to moral character issues, the rhetoric is defined into the domain of epideictic discourse. There is a great deal of blaming and praising that goes on in apologies.
Models of apologies
In this essay, there are various theories of apologies that can be broken down into various categories. In a sequential order they are: four similarities by Rosenfield, four factors of apologetic strategies by Ware and Linkugal, apologia and Ryans kategoria. They have been combined and explored over the years by scholars. Rosenfields rhetorical model stated that there are four common similarities when people broadcast an apology: a verbal attack on the critics, a sharp and short controversy, facts and data placed on the speech and statements of apology that comprises of earlier statement. This theory does not apply to the apology that was made by Tiger Woods.
The degree to which Woods repeated previous statements is still open to debate, as is the magnitude of the criticism made by the media. Additionally, although he did counter-attack the media, there lacked any facts or data in the center of Woods rhetorical sandwich. Ware and Linkugals approach perceived apology as a combination of four groups of factors which are differentiation, denial, transcendence and bolstering. Differentiation is the act of stating that the wrong act does not apply to the situation in a bid to separate the negative contents from the charge or to putting aside those negative issues. Denial is the act of denying the wrong doing or denying any intention to do wrong. Bolstering is the tendency of the speaker to identify with something that is favored by the audience. Finally, transcendence is the tendency of saying that the charge should not be viewed as a big issue. When evaluating the rhetoric theories in relation to Woods apology, these four factors seem to have merit in this specific case.
In his model Ryan stated that checking each speech with another critic enables one to tell apart the vital issues from the bogus ones. It also aids in evaluating the merits of both speakers supplements. In addition, the critic is in a position to make relevant assessments of the relative success and failure of the speakers in relation to the final outcome of the speech. Consequently, a critic cannot comprehend an apology without thwarting them both. The relationship between kategoria and apologia on the face of it seems so obvious. But the reality is that the two are not linked in relation to the current public events. Sharon Downey has studied a genre of apologia. In her findings, she claims that as rhetorical situations are changing, so is the genre of apologia. For example, Downey states that the historical apologists used to adjust to the futility of argument. In this research, it is stated that the drama that bound the audience and the accused accuser in the conventional period has given way to the alienation of the audience, confusing accuser and the aversive apologist.
In modern times charges against the accused are not explicit but are implied frequently emanating from innuendo and rumors. In addition, modern-day apologists lack a defined opponent. Usually, instead of being viewed sympathetically, apologies which are defensive are viewed with contempt.
Statement of sorrow
In all accounts, an apology should contain a statement of sorrow. For instance, according to the process of any apology should contain the acknowledgement of the offense, the explanation, communication of remorse and a promise of reparations. According to in an apology, the accused should acknowledge his wrongdoing, he should accept responsibility, he should be seen to express remorse and regret, and he should promise compensation and an intention to refrain from the vice. There are eight characteristics of a moral apology: admitting that one is wrong, apologizing for the act, taking responsibility for the wrong act, refraining from justifying the act, asking for forgiveness from the victim, admitting that the victim deserved a better treatment, assurance to the victim that such an act will not be repeated and finally offering amends. These statements of sorrow are referred to as termed mortification. This is where the offender acknowledges his wrong behavior and asks for forgiveness through an apology.
If we critically look at Woods apology we can identify some of these aspects. Severally in the apology, woods admitted that his manners were wrong and he accepted personal and direct responsibility for his behavior. Secondly, on multiple times, Woods admitted that he was deeply sorry for his actions. He went further to acknowledge the harm that his behavior had caused to multiple people and organizations. This aspect of Woods apology helped in mending relationships by identifying the sufferers, reinforcing the sufferers version of history and admitting that the sufferers deserved a better treatment.
The TV shows us emotions through tears and laughter. This is done through the use of close ups which we see in our homes. This is the most intimate information that one can have about a person. According to because people have shared in celebrities lives, they feel like they know them, and so they judge them using the same criteria they use when they select their friends. They do not reject their intimates or their potential loved ones because they have weak resumes. They embrace their warm personalities and they even treat their serious politicians in this manner. In this relation, they are dating their celebrities .
The closeness and immediacy that the television brings them, allows them to see more private lives of their celebrities thus eliminating a good deal in their mystery. This is echoed in politicians, who argue that the society does not respect them as much after their real life situation is shown. The reality is that people do not respect them as much; but they are all too familiar with their celebrities foibles.
In rhetoric analysis, the generic criticism is the style of analysis where the artifact is judged with reference from other examples in the same genre. The judgment can also be made on the basis of the existing elements within the genre itself. Simply, this means that generic criticism is a rhetorical analysis of an artifact through the eyes of a given genre.
According to Kathleen rhetorical artifacts such as union messages, apologies, gallows, speeches and press conferences are some of the examples which can be well analyzed using the generic methodology. This is because it generic methodology attempts to identify forms of rhetoric through the similar attributes or functions of individuals or members of a particular group. In this essay, generic methodology is the most relevant methodology that can be applied. The main rationale for this is that this is an apology which was made in a press conference. In previous apologies, such as Nixon resignation speech, the methodology was applied.
The methodology enables the critic to discover the substance and the form of the artifact therefore providing the additional insight in the functioning of the genre. In this case, the methodology will enhance the understanding of Woods apology. This will make it easy to identify the genre by category. Since this apology was dependent on the media coverage, the methodology will help to give out important revelations by use of some carefully controlled questions and answers.
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The methodology will establish a common characteristic through comparing Woods apology with other previously related statements. Such statements will include Nixons resignation statements and presidential inaugural speeches. The comparison will help in revealing anything useful about one or both artifacts of the genre. The comparison gives a holistic report of the artifacts rather than relying on one aspect such as history.
Analyses and Comparisons
Evaluation and the analysis of an apologetic rhetoric can be broken down into two elements namely the manner and the content. To start with the content, an apology should acknowledge the wrong act, take responsibility, convey regret, empathize with the victim, request for forgiveness and reconciliation, explain the relevant information in relation to concerns and questions, offer reparations and corrective actions. The greater part of Woods apology met some of these elements with the exception of how he gave detailed information concerning his marital unfaithfulness. This exception can make one to question whether that information was really important when told to the public. However, in terms of manner, an apology should be truthful, timely, sincere and voluntary. In the case of Tiger Woods lack of these elements makes his apology to be easily criticized. He took too long to issue an apology and was insincere when he was forced by circumstances to deliver one. As earlier stated in the methodology, generic criticism tries to compare two types of artifacts in an effort of determining the common characteristics between artifacts that define a certain genre.
Gerald Wilson broke Nixons resignation speech in to various themes while he was analyzing it. He wanted to know the percentage of time that the apologist used in satisfying each theme. The themes included thanking the supporters, attacking the accusers, bolstering, pledging for future actions and mortification. From his finding, Nixon spent 2.5% of his time in mortification, 19% pledging future actions, 26% bolstering, 7% thanking his supporters and he never attacked his accusers. To make up to a 100% the rest of his time maybe he was silent or doing something else that was not related to the apology. This can be compared to Woods apology. Woods spent 32.50% in mortification, 35% pledging for future actions, 4% bolstering, 20% attacking his accusers and 9% thanking his supporters.
Figure 1. A comparison of Tiger Woods apology and Nixons resignation speech
Figure 1 shows a comparison of the percent of time that Nixon and Tiger woods spent while speaking in rhetorical subgroups. Interestingly, the two speeches are approximated to be almost of the same length. Another interesting point is that they both spent almost the same time to thank their supporter but they completely differed in the attack of their accusers. This supports the observation made by Downey that counterattacks have become a contemporary discourse convention in apology. Attacks on the accusers are inevitable in modern apologies which are broadcasted to the public. In woods case, the main accusers were the media and he spent 20% of his speech attacking them.
Nixon had spent only 24 seconds out of 16 minutes admitting his wrongdoing. This disappointed his listeners for they expected Nixon to admit that he had wronged or to attack his accusers. He did neither. This can be termed as non- admission of wrong doing. Nonetheless, Nixon had set a non-verbal tone of conciliation and dignity.
There is another rhetorical maneuver by Jerry Falwell after he took over the operation of PTL after the resignation of Jimmy Bakker. He bolstered the perception of the congregation of his character through describing the financial situation of PTL in financial terms such as fiduciary responsibility and financial statements. This suggested that in spite being an expert in the spiritual matters, he was also an expert in the financial matters. Falwell transcended the charges of his incompetence to lead the church, by stating that the almighty Lord would not allow him to quit. Likewise, Tiger Woods bolstered his character by talking about his foundation and he transcended the accusations by stating that the affairs he had were private family matter between him and his wife. He also claimed that the media was hounding him.
Walter Fisher linked discourse to motive. Discourse seeks to rejuvenate, discover, purify or subvert an image. An apology has a motivation of purification. Fisher discussed Nixons speech and compared it with Woods speech. The ethics of Nixon had been attacked. By identifying himself with the American values, Nixon purified himself. There are four important steps in Nixons speech. He started by denying that he was wrong, he endorsed his personal ethos of hard work, humble roots and loyalty. He then attacked his opponents and finally he reiterated his affection for America. On the other hand, Woods admitted his wrong act, endorsed his personal ethos for the concern of his family and public good works. He attacked the media especially Paparazzi and he finalized by confirming that he will be committed to golf and he would continue being a player and thanking the PGA tour executives and the golf players. Nixons response was tremendously favorable as compared to Woods response.
There was a survey that was conducted on 3rd March 2010 that stated that 54% of the respondents believed in Woods apology and the rating of this approval was unchanged. Equivalence can be drawn between Bill Clinton, Jimmy Swaggart and Tiger Woods. Each of these celebrities was accused of adultery. In addition, each of their scandal brought forth something extra making the whole issue titillating. Woods had been attacked by his wife with a golf club. Bill Clinton was the American president and Falwell was a religious figure. Clintons scandal can be evaluated as character and sex implication in a mass mediated presidency. Most citizens of America believed that the American president was a womanizer and a draft-dodger. This was different in Woods case because of his charitable activities and with his smile he was better off to commence his apology than in the case of Bill Clinton. In Clintons case, the popular perception resulted from the fact it was his wife that he had harmed the most and if she failed to forgive him, the public would not agree to forgive him.
In 1992, Clinton used two rhetorical strategies which helped him to convince the public to put the past behind and focus on the current and future events. These strategies were: public private distinction and a timeline or life pattern. These strategies helped Clinton to separate his status from his character. Ethos is the most powerful way of persuasion. Bill Clinton later triumphed over his scandal though as earlier stated, his ethos was less creditable than Woods.
Still on analysis, it is important to analyze the strategies that Woods used in the delivery of his apology speech. To start with on February 19, 2010, Woods delivered a fourteen minutes speech which had a sentence length of 12.3 and 1540 words. In average, a written sentence is made of 15-23 words and a spoken sentence has ten words in length. In his speech, Woods used the active voice and only 2% of his speech that contained passive voice constructions. His speech could read or could even be understood by a child in as low as fifth grade. Woods speech could have been perceived as arrogant and pompous if he had decided to use polysyllabic words. If he would have wanted to sound like a dictionary or an encyclopedia the public could have gotten a negative feeling about him. A writer or a speaker communicates his credible ethos only when his upright character, goodwill and intelligence are projected to his audience. This can be achieved though correct choice of words, use of body language, use of the correct tone of voice among many other communication techniques. It is not authentic in an apology to say if I gave any offence.
There were some suggestions by the media on the correct outfit that best suited the apology. Some said that Woods should wear a brown or middle blue jacket for the television and a pastel shirt so to appear off-white on the television. The best shirt that was recommended was light blue shirt. ABC news anchor; Chris Connelly said that Woods could wear a clean shirt and a sports coat without a tie. Woods combined these two in his outfit. He wore a light blue shirt, a dark jacket without a tie. Axtell recommended Woods to apply make up to reduce the shining of the face (Axtell 67). It was also recommended that Woods should maintain his eye contact with the audience to display his honesty. Little eye contact displays dishonesty. In addition any speaker should avoid looking upwards for it makes the speaker appear as if he is asking God for help.
During his speech, Woods preferred to put his hand over his heart. This is a clear rhetoric of his body language. Non-verbally, he pledged to the audience that he will behave in a manner that will make them to trust him. At the start of his speech, he greeted his audience and he thanked the audience for joining him. This clearly means that Woods admitted that he was not better than the crowd and that is why he was thankful for their attendance. After that he said : Many of you in the room are my friends. Many of you in this room know me. Many of you have cheered for me, or worked with me, or supported me, and now, every one of you has good reason to be critical of me.
From the quote above and throughout the speech, Woods repeated many of you at the beginning of sentences. This can be termed as anaphora. At the end of many phrases he used the word me which is epistrophe. There are other prepositions that he used such as of me, with me, know me and for me. Figures of speech provide the tools required in communication goodwill, upright character and intelligence and as Aristotle said they need to be projected. The figures of speech, visual ethos are essential tools for building an effective verbal ethos. Later in the speech, Woods used trope of euphemism when he said I had affairs. The word affair is much better than using the word adultery. The rhetorical discourse can be broken down to four sub-groups in relation to organizational schema of rhetorical discourse. Archetypal classification as according to is one of the subgroups that appears to fit in Tiger Woods apology speech. This is when the speech depends on persuasion images that are embedded in the minds of the audience.
If we use this theory on Tiger Woods we can see him casting himself as the protector of his family when he said that it annoyed him when he came to know how people have fabricated such a story (about his affairs) and when he said that he is the shield of his family from public spotlight. The role of protector of children and women is an image that Woods used to his advantage. It is very obvious that many people belief that a man is the protector of his family. This was not spoken but it is an image planted in the minds of many people.
Summary of the Major Findings
Tiger Woods apology can be termed as a outstanding apology despite of some aspects in his statement. To start with, he was reluctant to give any real explanation, but as an alternative, he talked in general terms concerning his irresponsible and selfish behavior. This can be regarded as important because the lack of an explanation left many people questioning whether he understood what actions were erroneous and why. He did not even mention whether he agreed that those actions were wrong. In addition, throughout the apology statement, Woods comments inclined more towards bolstering.
Woods comments went unchallenged because the journalists were not able to explore a number of transgressions including the car crash. Woods defended himself by saying that further details needed not to be discussed in front of the press and they needed to be left out for him to discuss with his wife. Lack of criticism brought up the issue of lack of third party participation. In the apology, woods admitted that his manners were wrong and he accepted personal and direct responsibility for his behavior. Secondly, multiple times, Woods admitted that he was deeply sorry for his actions. He went further to acknowledge the harm that his behavior had caused to multiple people and organizations
This aspect of Woods apology helped in mending relationships by the way he identified the victim, reinforced the victims version of the story and admitted that the victim deserved a relatively better treatment. Tiger woods apology can be compared to Nixons. Tiger Woods bolstered his character by talking about his foundation and he transcended the accusations by stating that the affairs he had were private family matter between him and his wife. He also claimed that the media was hounding him. He attacked the media especially Paparazzi and he finalized by confirming that he will be committed to golf and he would continue being a player and thanking the PGA tour executives and the golf players.
On the main strategies that Woods used we can start with denial which was manifested through simple denial and shifting the blame. Secondly, he evaded responsibility through provocation, accident, defeasibility which made him to lose his adherence to the Buddhist faith. Thirdly, Woods reduced his offensiveness of event through bolstering where he promoted his foundation. He transcended when he said that the events were a marital issue and he attacked the accuser by saying that the media lied and stalked. He promised to correct his actions through seeking therapy and regaining his faith. Finally, in his mortification, he apologized and promised to stop playing golf temporarily.
Recommendation for Further Research
An interesting future study resulting from this circumstance should test the audiences appraisal of the actual wording of Woods statement versus the visual performance of his apology. By this it means testing one groups view of Woods and his apology after watching a video of his apology, and then weighing against the view of another group which only hears a broadcast.
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