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Steve Williams' Slur on Tiger Woods Reminds Us Nothing is Private in a Social World

Tiger Woods' former caddy Steve Williams learned a hard lesson this weekend in Shanghai, China:

NOTHING is private in a social media world.

Not to go into much detail, but at a late night banquet Williams received a mock award from fellow caddys applauding the way he handled himself earlier in the year.  After a big win for his current professional, Adam Scott, Williams said it was the best week of his career--basically dissing Tiger and the many wins Williams shared with him.

At that time, many in the upper reaches of golf were shocked (shocked I tell you) by Stevie's earlier comments because caddys are supposed to be "seen and not heard."  But  for those of us observing it was a well-placed dig from a servant who'd been summarily dismissed.  Well played.

Unfortunately, Williams was evidently emboldened by the attention and lack of consequences for his career.  Thus, the China Syndrome.  Why wouldn't he be lulled into taking another shot? He was there on the other side of the world (from the U.S., not his native New Zealand); he was in a dark party atmosphere; he was with his allies, trusted comrades.

These kinds of conditions make him and others think it's safe to say whatever they feel at the time. It's just us in the room, right?

So Williams let rip that his intent was to stick it to Tiger where the sun don't shine and Williams included the term "black" in his comments.

This time Williams stepped in it.  Now Williams has put his reputation in danger. So far he's been condemned by the heads of the US PGA and the European Tour, had his character defended by some in golf and had to apologize to Tiger personally.  He's also put his current boss in the awkward position of defending his caddy, again.

Among other things, Scott mentioned that the comments were taken away from the context of the room that night.

That's true, but all comments are taken out of context.  We can never fully convey that moment in time. Thus, "you had to be there" is heard very often.

The main lesson we learn here is what we all teach in media training, again, NOTHING is private if two or more people are present. That's been true for a long time, but with instantaneous social media, your words, can literally be seen and heard by millions of people within seconds.

Think about it.  If someone in the room turned on the camera on their phone and captured what Williams said, it could be instantly uploaded to YouTube, CNN, BET and tweeted around the world.

Steve, and Adam, are lucky they this didn't happen.  First, the words coming out of his mouth on tape would have gotten him endless coverage on every network and millions of hits on YouTube. Second, the context that he and Adam would like to convey wouldn't really help him.  To see a guy proudly stand up in front of a party crowd and belt this out wouldn't translate well to the living rooms and laptops of people around the world.

Let's been clear: in a social media world, NOTHING is private, nothing is off the record.  It's an easy measure, if you wouldn't want your parents to hear it and you wouldn't want your comments to be seen or heard by millions worldwide, don't say it.

Just don't say it. Period.

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