My latest column for the National Sports Journalism Center is on the PGA Tour’s veil of secrecy in the wake of the Dustin Johnson situation.
From the column:
We live in a society where transparency rules. Sports leagues have been far more open about their activities and the way they interact with players and coaches.
It really can’t be any other way with the modern media landscape. The spotlight always is turned on high with so many different platforms peering in these days. It seems silly to try to hide.
Then there’s the PGA Tour.
Last week, the Tour went behind its usual veil of secrecy when the news about Dustin Johnson broke. After the golfer initially announced he was taking time off for “personal reasons,” Golf.com broke the story that he had been suspended for six months after testing positive for the third time for using marijuana and cocaine.
The Tour quickly issued a statement, saying Johnson wasn’t under suspension and that his leave of absence is voluntary. However, nobody is buying that. There’s a prevailing feeling that it is a matter of semantics here. Johnson jumped before he was pushed.
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem continues to go with a policy of not disclosing penalties to its players when they stray off of life’s fairway. In a column about Johnson last week, Bob Harig of ESPN.com ran a 2009 quote from Finchem addressing his don’t-tell stance.
“Why don’t we talk about it or give out the details? One, we don’t feel like people really care that much,” Finchem said. “We don’t get emails from fans saying, ‘Why don’t you tell us.’ So we don’t think there’s this hunger for that information. Two, candidly, we don’t have that much of it, and we don’t want to remind people about it.”
Perhaps somebody is filtering his emails, because Finchem is deluding himself if he thinks people aren’t interested in the PGA Tour handing out penalties to its players. Fans definitely want to know why a player suddenly disappears from action. Before the Golf.com story came out, speculation was rampant about the exact nature of Johnson’s problems. That definitely wasn’t in his best interests.