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Take a deep breath and dive into another season of LeVar Burton reads out now LeVar Burton reads is just that. It's me reading short fiction aloud with some soundscapes and music. I read stories by your favorite authors like Neil Gaiman and Kurt Vonnegut, but I really enjoy introducing you to your next favorite author. You can start listening to season seven of LeVar Burton reads right now in Stitcher ABAL podcasts or wherever it is you get your lesson on. Previously on All American, can a man possibly come out intact with his integrity and soul in this world of modern fame and Nike commercials, he's the chosen one.
Will have the power to impact nations, people say he went off the rails after his dad died. Maybe you realize Tiger Woods doesn't know who he is. My emergency, I have someone down in front of my house, they hit a pole, I came out to see their car accident, sir. OK, sir. Sir, is it a car accident?
Hello, this is a 911 one call from November 27, 2009. It's a Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.
This is a car accident. Yes. Yes. OK, and are they trapped inside of the vehicle? No, they're laying on the ground. OK, stay on the line for medical. Don't hang up, OK? After a medic comes on the line, the 911 caller confirms that he's phoning from a residential neighborhood in Windermere, Florida, a suburb of Orlando.
I have a neighbor. He hit the tree. We came out here just to see what was going on. I see him. He's laying down you. It was an auto accident. There was an auto accident. Yes. OK, is he unconscious? Yes. OK, are you able to tell if he's breathing? No, I can't tell right now. OK. All right. We do have help on the way. What color is his car to?
It's a black.
There's an unidentified woman in the background asks what happens. And the caller explains that he's calling for help, trying to get a police chief.
Right now, we don't know what happened. We're just trying to figure it all out right now. We just want to call the police right now. So hopefully, you know, your phone's breaking up. Can you hear me, though, sir? Yes, OK. OK. Is he on the ground or is he in the car? Close to click. But yeah, I'm hearing that too.
And that's where the call ends and where one of the most shocking and talked about stories of the 2000s begins because the world would soon learn that the woman yelling what happened was Kotido Woods and the man on the ground unconscious.
That was Tiger. I'm Jordan Bell and this is all American from Stitcher, Season one, Tiger. Tiger Woods seemed to be in total control through most of the. He was ruthlessly disciplined and competitive on the golf course and he had a beautiful wife and two children at home. Maybe he wasn't that Ghandi like figure that his father, Earl, had predicted he'd be. But Tiger's image was pretty much pristine. In fact, in 2009, there was only one other American who topped Tiger's lofty approval numbers, newly elected President Barack Obama.
But in November of that same year, that perfect image of Tiger Woods, it was completely shattered. And for the first time in his life, the media was no longer playing by his rules. This is episode seven, The Crash. Hey, Albert. Hey, Jordan. So today we're going to look back at the moment that completely upended the Tiger Woods story by suddenly everyone was interested in Tiger for reasons that had nothing to do with his athletic achievements.
Right. So in 2009, Tiger, he was still the number one golfer in the world. And that year he became the first athlete to exceed a billion dollars in career earnings. But today, we're not going to talk about golf. Good afternoon, everyone.
I'm Martha Zagorsky. We interrupt regular programming right now for breaking news that will rock the world of sports. Tiger Woods, the world's greatest golfer, has been injured in a crash outside his Orlando home.
This is from the day of that 911 call in Windermere, Florida. And local Orlando News interrupts afternoon programming to break the story about Tiger's crash.
Officials saying Tiger hit a fire hydrant and then a tree at his Isleworth neighborhood around 20 this morning. Chopper two flying up live over that area. Right now, the scene is clear. Authorities telling us Woods was driving his 2009 black Escalade when he lost control by a neighbor's home. Florida Highway Patrol says alcohol did not play a role in this crash. Investigators are working to find out how we crash, but they say charges are pending. A source telling WESH two he's been treated for facial lacerations.
Tiger Woods is the world's number one golfer. He's won 14 majors in his career.
At first, the coverage was just straightforward reporting about the car crash. Tiger was literally more popular than the pope at this point. Of course, people cared that he was in a car accident.
But over the next several hours and days, the story became very confusing as details started trickling out. Not only had Tiger run over a fire hydrant and hit a tree, but the windows of his SUV had been shattered by Elin using a golf club.
The initial word from police was that Elin broke the windows to get Tiger out of the car and that Tiger was taken to the hospital with facial lacerations before being discharged.
Then that Saturday, Tiger released a statement on his website, but it kind of raised more questions than it answered. Tiger wrote, quote, This is a private matter and I want to keep it that way. Although I understand there is curiosity, the many false, unfounded and malicious rumors that are currently circulating about my family and me are irresponsible.
So after that statement that basically told us nothing, the press went insane. In the first 36 hours after his accident, there were 30, 200 stories published about it.
And as for those rumors Tiger mentioned in a statement, those crew to the press began connecting Tiger's crash to a report that had just been published in the National Enquirer.
Golf sensation Tiger Woods says his car crash outside his Florida mansion is a private matter and he intends to keep it that way. Meanwhile, rumors involving his wife and possibly an affair with a New York woman continue to swirl at this hour. Let's switch live to ABC News correspondent.
OK, so here's where our Tiger story officially turns tabloid.
I'm looking at the Enquirer issue where they publish the story about Tiger.
It hit newsstands the Wednesday before Thanksgiving 2009, just before the crash. And besides the Tiger story, this issue has got kind of what you'd expect from a tabloid known for sensationalist journalism.
Right. Is a big splashy photos of Martha Stewart and Rachael Ray with the cover line. Rachael Ray to Martha, I hate you.
And then the headline Oprah Quits show for Gayle. And there's a smiling Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes and something about twins and fertility treatments.
All this issue is really missing. Is a lady giving birth to an alien? I agree.
And then along the top of the cover, there's another headline, Tiger Woods cheating scandal with a photo of Tiger, in the words with this woman. Sexy pictures inside pointing to a small headshot of a woman.
And inside the issue, there are photos of Tiger and his wife, Elin Nordegren.
But there are also photos of another woman we've never heard about named Rachel Uchitel.
Yep, that's you see, I. T l and as you'll hear, the media never really settles on how to pronounce it.
So we're going with you should tell in the photo of her that runs with the story you should tell is well dressed.
And in dark sunglasses, rolling a suitcase on a city street in Melbourne, Australia, the Enquirer had tracked her there from New York and followed her as she checked into a hotel where Tiger was staying.
The story claims that you should tell. And Tiger had been having an affair for the last several months. But remember, this story came out just before Thanksgiving. And for a brief moment, no one really seemed to care. I mean, it's the Enquirer.
According to them, someone is always having an affair, right? But then Tiger crashes his car and reporters start looking to the Enquirer story for some answers.
The woman the National Enquirer claims had an affair with Tiger Woods was in Los Angeles Monday meeting with high powered celebrity attorney Gloria Allred.
This is a segment from a show called Hollywood for one one one of a number of entertainment tabloid TV shows that breathlessly covered the Tiger story.
And all of a sudden the media was having to brush up on their golf metaphors.
The Tiger Woods story has taken on more twists and turns than a par five. And the latest twist leads us right here. So this inconspicuous exclusive Hamptons hot spot called the pink elephant. Now, if Tiger's marriage really is in the rough, it may have something to do. According to published reports with a woman known as the VIP diva who has worked here at the club as the director of VIP services. The National Enquirer claims that a bombshell report that the other woman in Tiger's life is Rachel Uchitel and that the VIP in her life is Tiger Woods.
All the focus was on Uchitel until, hey, it's still a legitimate issue for Tiger left this voicemail for a woman named Jaimee Grubbs.
Grubbs provided the audio to US Weekly who published it less than a week after the crash as part of a cover story on Tiger's infidelity allegations.
Here's how the voicemail ends.
Can you please take your name off your phone? My wife went to my phone and maybe call. Will you do this for me quickly? This voicemail, it was a bombshell when it came out, everyone at my office couldn't stop talking about how weird and awkward that huge quickly sign off was, but we just never heard Tiger like this. He just sounds so desperate.
Yeah, almost scared. It's so clear that he knows things are spiraling totally.
Tiger's image had been so carefully cultivated by him and his team all these years, and now he's totally losing control.
Yeah, the headline of the US Weekly story was, Yes, He Cheated. It alleged that in addition to his affair with Uchitel, Tiger also had some 20 sexual encounters with Grubbs, a 24 year old cocktail waitress.
And this is where things really escalate after that voicemail. The alleged infidelity is just they just snowballed. More and more women kept coming forward, claiming to have slept with Tiger.
The story was everywhere being here in New York during the time I remember taking the subway and seeing people clutching copies of the New York Daily News or The Post with Elin, Tiger and random women splashed on the covers and clearly headline writers were working overtime.
Yeah, I'm going to read a few of these headlines, all from The New York Post. So the first one is CGY Tiger.
Yeah, that's the headline for a story on Tiger's statement that told us basically nothing.
And Tiger copped out. That's Tiger being elusive with the cops trying to investigate the car accident and eventually just slapping him with one hundred sixty four dollars traffic ticket Tiger's birdies.
That's more women coming forward.
And then I'm a cheater and even more women coming forward.
Tiger's green fees, a story about how Tiger paid his mistresses off. And then, of course, there's Tiger pulls out.
Yeah, that's Tiger pulling out of a golf tournament.
And I counted 20 straight days of Tiger on the cover of The New York Post. That is crazy.
Yeah. Tiger made the cover of The New York Post for more consecutive days than the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Wow.
It feels gross. I mean, sure, some of these headlines are clever, but some just completely flat in a really complicated life and story.
And I can only imagine how painful this time must have been for Tiger and especially for Elin and the rest of their family.
And it wasn't just the tabloids that were going into overdrive. Today, the seven women came forward claiming to be his mistress. I know this is like Spartacus. I am Tiger's mistress, the tiger and the alleged mistresses are popping up in droves. I mean, in the morning we started out with I know there's been like three today, a couple of porn stars, a lot of cocktail waitresses, so many cocktail waitresses. I mean, no wonder when I go to a bar, I can never get a drink.
They're all with Tiger Woods. To make a long story short, if you have a lower back take and you haven't slept with Tiger Woods, you're a loser.
Really. I got myself the new Tiger Woods Advent calendar. It is so cool. Every day it reveals a new mistress. It's like. Thank you once again with Santa Claus and and Tiger Woods, what's that? Santa Santa Claus quits after three holes.
But, you know, this is part of a five minute round up of late night jokes about Tiger that aired on MSNBC.
But I got to say, those jokes are so backwards. They're attempting to make fun of Tiger, but they're actually picking on women. Yeah.
And by the way, it's not like Tiger Woods is the first high profile man to ever get caught cheating on his wife.
Plenty of politicians, athletes and other celebrities have made headlines for their indiscretions for sure, like David Letterman, who also had a field day telling Tiger jokes and who just two months earlier went through his own very public sex scandal. But, you know, I think there's a reason why Tiger's scandal reached such a fever pitch.
It was just so shocking, the details that kept coming out totally flipped everything we thought we knew about him.
And I would also say another thing that really didn't help here was Tiger's initial response to the situation.
He didn't make an effort to get ahead of the story in any way.
Instead, as the scandal continued to grow, Tiger put out a couple more statements on his website. And one, he mentioned his, quote, transgressions and said he let his family down, but offered no further explanation or details.
And in another statement, Tiger announced he'd be taking an indefinite break from golf to, quote, focus on being a better husband, father and person.
Beyond that, the public didn't hear anything from Tiger about what was going on. He clearly wasn't ready to talk. In fact, his silence started to become the story.
Welcome back to The Situation Room. Big developments in the Tiger Woods drama. First, the mysterious accident and his Florida home. Then the acknowledgement of some personal failings on his Web site. And now, finally, Woods addresses the media in person outside his home alive.
This is a cold open from Saturday Night Live, which aired just a week after Tiger's crash. That's Jason Sudeikis as Wolf Blitzer.
He cuts to Tiger Woods, played by Keenan Thompson, who's wearing a red polo, a black Nike T.W. hat and a bandage over his cheek.
Standing next to him is Blake Lively as Evelyn and a caption below reads, Tiger Woods talks to media. And remember, in real life, Tiger had not spoken to the media yet.
I know I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves. Look, I'm not perfect. I'm a far short of perfect.
Yeah. For all of those who have supported me over the years, I offer my profound apology for these multiple transgressions. Multiple. Did I say multiple because.
This just in, Tiger Woods is back in the hospital, apparently just the bit goes on a tad too long and Blake Lively's portrayal of Elin here really bothered me.
It makes her seem clueless and vindictive and like she can't speak English.
But beyond implying that Elin had beaten Tiger up, this SNL skit was a clear jab at Tiger and his disappearing act. If he wasn't going to talk to the press, well, we just pretend he would.
It's like his silence made the story even bigger. In fact, by this point, Tiger and Elin were finally People magazine cover material.
All right, Tom and Katie, Oprah, Howie Mandel talking about his OCD, the McCoy septuplets at 12. Oh, my God. I mean, this is classic People magazine.
This is Larry Hackett, who we heard from in the last episode.
He's flipping through an issue of People magazine from December 2009 because, yes, he does have a bound copy of every single issue from his time as editor.
You'll remember the last time we spoke with Larry, he said Tiger was like wallpaper, a.k.a. totally dull, but not anymore.
Now, this heretofore boring golfer is now a hell of a story, a hell of a story that could sell Tiger in trouble is the cover on the December 14th issue.
Can you describe what the picture on the cover? It's a picture of Tiger he's wearing. It's outside. It's Tiger and Elin. It's a paparazzi picture, but it's a decent picture. He's looking at life away from the camera. She has sunglasses on. She's looking at him. There's an instead of, I guess, that woman, Rachel, whatever her name was, you should tell. Let's see. So then inside music, movies, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
OK, Tiger in the Rough is the headline. Pretty good, right? The good headline. Yeah. And then the next week she's on the cover again. Tiger's wife, Elin. It's a photograph of her looking pensive. And the week after that was the special double issue. And she's and she's an inset in that, which is a little cover picture. And it says Elin in Tiger clothes, they're done. And then we did at least two more going into 2010, you know, Ellen's ordeal, that kind of thing.
And all the covers are basically speculating, will she stay or will she go? So on some level, Albert, I appreciate that People magazine was looking at this from Ellen's point of view, as in she's the one who's got to deal with the cheating husband.
Yeah, Larry told us he knew readers they would connect with Ellen.
We started to do stories about Ellen because we saw Ellen as the hero slash central character. Right. He's a dog. We can't put him on the cover over and over again because he's bad. Whenever we would do crime stories, never put the criminal on the cover. You put the victim on the cover. People don't want to spend money on the criminal. They want to spend money reading about the victim.
And it turns out that money that's really what was fueling the scandal. In November of two thousand and nine, I got a call from my editor at Sports Illustrated, Jim Carrey, and he called one day and said, I have received a peculiar call from these two women, two women on one line. They were from Las Vegas. But I think they were calling from New York at the moment and they were trying to sell a story to Sports Illustrated.
This is Michael Bamberger. He's a writer at Golf magazine and Golf Dotcom, and he published a book earlier this year on Tiger Woods.
But back in 2009, Michael was my colleague at Sports Illustrated.
And I'm paraphrasing, but this is roughly what it was for some. Some they were looking for roughly twenty five thousand dollars. They were going to give up an acquaintance slash friend or former friend of theirs who they alleged was having an affair with Tiger Woods. And would Sports Illustrated be interested in buying that story?
So this tip that Bamberger is talking about, it happened before Tiger's car crash. These two women thought they could get twenty five thousand dollars from Essi in exchange for their tip about Tiger's cheating.
Right. There was just one catch. Like most mainstream publications, Sports Illustrated is not in the practice of buying information. Doing so just sends you down a road with very complicated ethical questions.
Plus, how do you know if you're even buying reliable information? And in this case, as I staffers weren't even comfortable with the intel being offered up for sale.
And I said to Jim, well, what would we do with the information if we got it? In other words, Tiger Woods is having an affair. How and why would that be a story for Sports Illustrated? My feeling is that it wasn't.
So, Albert, I want to ask about why this wasn't a story for Sports Illustrated. It obviously was of interest to tons of other outlets at the time.
Well, Bamberger says that on some level he was naturally interested in this rumor about Tiger.
And yet I feel exactly the same now as I did, that an athlete is not a clergyman. He's not an elected official. He's not a judge. They should have a broad right to privacy.
To Bamberger, Tiger's private life was off limits. Sports magazine probably didn't need to be looking into Tiger's, you know, business. I would like to think that in our American culture, we have broad respect for other people's rights to privacy. And I don't know what could be more private than one's sex life. I don't think any of us would want our private lives spied on in that fashion. And I don't think just simply being very good at sports makes you exempt from that.
Right. And by the way, where are you going to draw the line? You know that the tiger is so famous he loses his right to privacy, but another golfer, Phil Mickelson or Vijay Singh, might be. I don't think it really works that way.
So Bamberger and his editor didn't do the story, but someone else did, as I understand it, they sold their story to the National Enquirer. Yes, the Enquirer story that started it all. Yeah. But, you know, at the end of the day, I agree with Bamberger. A story about Tiger having consensual relationships outside his marriage doesn't feel like a story for S.I. And you could really argue that the amount of coverage this whole thing got was probably uncalled for.
Tiger was clearly a public figure. But yeah, I agree. Not every story about his personal life feels like it should be fair game. The birth of Tiger's children. Sure, of course. But Tiger's sex life, that's a private matter. And reputable news outlets don't generally go digging in that arena unless someone can report that something clearly illegal is happening, which was not the case here. And I think another reason why the Tiger scandal ended up exploding the way it did was because reputable news outlets, they were under a lot of pressure at this point in time, media was changing, shifting online and print publications had to keep up or risk being totally irrelevant and even going under.
Yeah, I remember telling people I wanted to study journalism around this time and people looking at me like that's a bad idea.
Sadly, they were probably giving you really good advice. I mean, I got into journalism to work on in-depth stories, but media, it was really changing.
When I got to Essi, you know, there was a growing emphasis on stories that drove traffic and much less focus on quality journalism.
Yeah. And during this transition period, print publications were really trying to keep up with newly popular gossip websites and blogs like TMZ and Perez Hilton. Larry Hackett at people told us that during those years his magazine moved away from feel good human interest stories. They pivoted to celebrity driven, splashy, salacious covers that would sell better over here at a supermarket.
I got to sell magazines and people are buying these magazines when they check out with their groceries on a Saturday. And if I don't do it, US magazine is going to do it. And that's how this works.
And if US Weekly isn't going to do it well, the National Enquirer definitely will write.
And it turns out that the National Enquirer, they've been sitting on the story of Tiger's affairs for years before they broke it. There's kind of an insane back story. According to a Wall Street Journal story from 2009, the mother of one of the women Tiger was having an affair with, she tried to sell her story to the Enquirer back in 2007. And Tiger's team, they caught wind of this at the time and they were not happy. Tiger's agent called up the Enquirer and asked, what do we have to do to cover up the story?
It makes sense that Tiger and his team wanted to keep this leak under control and they were successful at first.
They were, because the Enquirer's parent company also owned Men's Fitness. So the company offered up a trade. If Tiger appeared on the cover of Men's Fitness, they would not run the affair story and they acquire. Tiger took the deal.
And so that same summer, we got Tiger on the cover of Men's Fitness in a tank top touting a new fitness routine.
And by the way, sales for that men's fitness issue, they were up 30 percent over typical sales at the time.
It's honestly pretty incredible to me just how much money these affairs generated. You have these women and their supposed friends selling information. You've got the media outlets bartering and kind of blackmailing Tiger.
You've got magazines like us and people profiting off the covers once the news breaks. I never really thought about the money at play in a scandal like this. Oh, for sure.
But money was lost to mostly Tiger's money. After the scandal, Tiger starts losing his sponsorships, including AT&T, Gillette and Gatorade.
It's like everyone had a stake in the scandal. So, Albert, what was Sports Illustrated's steak?
I mean, this is the magazine that kind of made Tiger well after the crash, the editors who were grappling with how to cover the story and. Some way they turned to Scott Price, we heard from Scott in a previous episode, he did that 2000 cover story where he got 20 whole minutes with Tiger.
Now, in early 2010, a few months after the crash, he was assigned a very different Tiger story. He went to Florida to do some reporting because there was still a lot of confusion about what actually happened the night of the crash.
You know, I just wanted to sort of on the ground understanding of of of where things were. But I got to tell you, in doing the reporting. What was? Astonishing to me as narrative in a scandal was just how small it was and what I mean by that is. This wasn't Muhammad Ali standing up for the draft, you know, against the draft and then being banned for three years and losing his career, the tragedy of that is obvious.
This wasn't O.J. Simpson. This wasn't this sort of epic horror that really shined a light on standing racial inequalities and really showcased a divide in America. You know, just how they viewed the case. This was so decidedly small. And what I mean is when I first started reporting it, and I'm reading all this stuff I read in my notes, I wrote it down. So this is what you did with being Tiger Woods, like you were just another schmuck going to Vegas and trying to pick up a cocktail waitress.
In Florida, Price tracked down police reports to offer finally a complete account of what actually happened the night of the crash. So around 2:00 a.m., Tiger left his house in a rush after Elin had confronted him about his affairs. He got in his car, ran over a fire hydrant and crashed into a tree. And angry Elin did break the windows with a golf club. She told investigators that Tiger had been drinking earlier in the day and that he was on prescriptions for Vicodin and Ambien.
Investigators tried to get Tiger's blood work, but a judge refused to subpoena Tiger. Sounds like an example of him getting the celebrity treatment. Scott story came out in April 2010, but none of those details are what stuck with him. Instead, he was left with this feeling of disappointment over who Tiger had become.
So there's sort of this monumental, epic idea of what he's capable of. And instead, for whatever reason, it was, it had become a story about really the most original sin there is, which is, you know, infidelity and lying to a spouse.
He was supposed to be different, special and grand. And instead his downfall revealed a man who was just like us. Once again, Tiger Woods is back in the headlines and In Touch Weekly claims and has emails of Tiger Woods telling alleged mistress mistress Rachel, why do you think you can tell she was a hooker? Had to put their shoes, the futons. And if you walk into that, this is a segment from The View and the crew will be Goldberg, Joy Beinhart, Sherri Shepherd, Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Barbara Walters are serving us some 2009 era sexism.
With those you should tell jokes.
They discuss how Tiger had been on a short list for the Medal of Freedom, but now no one was nominating him for anything.
At some point, we'll go back to how great a golfer he actually is because that's that's it. Well, no, but, you know, the medal wasn't for his personal life, you know what I mean? What? He is a great golfer and he's done some amazing contributions to society, has actually contributed to society. This is his personal life. No, no. Except except maybe everybody at this table but me, you know, my God, I'd have to give back everything if people knew some of the things I like, I say.
And that's not to say this, cause this is this is a little more than just a transgression. No, I don't think it is a little more than a transgression because it's a transgression to a lot of people. A lot of people feel that way. But I have also transgressed and, you know, I've taken lots of heat for it. That's why. And what I'm saying is do not forget that he is just a guy who is a brilliant golfer and not God.
Looking back on this story over 10 years later, WAPI is the only voice here who is really cutting through the noise. She's like, come on, guys, we did this. We put Tiger on this pedestal.
But in the end, Tiger was just a golfer. And after the scandal, he wasn't even doing that.
He kind of disappeared. But finally, in February 2010, after three months of complete silence, Tiger faced the cameras and spoke.
Next time on All American, good morning and thank you for joining me. While I have always tried to be a private person, there are some things I want to say. all-American is a production from Stitcher. This episode was written, reported and produced by Albert Chen and me, Jordan Bell. Janay Palmer is our story editor. Abigail Cheal is our senior producer. Our executive producers are Daisy Rozario and Chris Banin. Casey Holford is our mix engineer who also wrote our fantastic theme music.
And thank you to Nick Dooley and Kelvin Bias. And remember, we want to hear from you. Email us with your thoughts about season one and your ideas for an athlete you want to learn more about in season two. You can reach us at all-American at Stitcher dot com. And don't forget to subscribe to the show and leave us a review that goes a long way. Thanks. Yes. OK. You ready there, are you still to hostiles?
Yes, we just had that snack while everyone else was know I wasn't ready for it, it was still gross.
And now I'm desperate enough to. Among all you do, you took.