The Tweet Heard ‘Round the Golfing World

Ted Bishop learned how fast social media can be used to ruin a career. I give my take on why we should all think before hitting send.

Thrash TalkA few years ago I was an avid listener of Colin Cowherd’s radio program. Like him or not, he had a pretty wise take on Twitter. He believed that Twitter was a loaded gun, meaning you could hand it to someone and they would be likely to shoot themselves (or someone else). I think he was on to something.

I tried Twitter before it really hit the mainstream. I wasn’t an original user, but I was probably in before you were. My company at the time was looking for exposure and all of the marketing people I spoke with told me I had to get on Twitter. I had both a company account and a personal one. I did not last long. At the time I was a user the LPGA was just starting their campaign on Twitter as well. I followed Christina Kim and Michelle Wie, among others, and the nasty comments made to them by random people went beyond the definition of mean. I didn’t know if I was supposed to be offended or, as a parent, concerned that someone might be stalking them. I quickly left Twitter.

Colin’s main point regarding Twitter was that the filter is removed. People can say things they think in their head that they would never say in person. Just type it into that little bubbly prompt and hit “Send.” Ninety plus percent of tweets go without a follow up. But the five or ten percent can be dangerous and damaging.

Just ask Ted Bishop.

Ted’s tweet, the one causing all this ruckus the past few days, was mindless. It was a thing you might say to yourself, but certainly not at a dinner party with female acquaintances present. It was locker room trash talk, not something that should have been public.

To Bishop’s defense, Ian Poulter is one cocky twitter Tweeter (and person). He is brash, aggressive, and at times (approaching “all”) can appear self centered. I followed him during my brief Twitter stint and I found his posts about fifty percent uninteresting or self-promoting, and fifty percent somewhat interesting. For example, he’d occasionally post the outfit he planned to wear that day or offer a promotion to give someone tickets to an event, but most of the time he was posting pictures of himself in private jets smoking Cuban cigars and drinking fancy champaign.

Poulter is not new to Twitter controversy. He called Hideki Matsuyama an “idiot” on twitter after an emotional outburst on the green by Matsuyama caused some damage to the green. Poulter was technically in the right, as we now know Matsuyama apologized for his actions, but the way that Poulter attacked him on Twitter was brazen. He could have easily pulled Matsuyama aside in the locker room and told him that he made a mistake. This attack by Poulter started a social media attack by Dale Concannon ending in Poulter calling him a part of the male anatomy. Poulter has a fighter’s spirit and it shows on Twitter.

But back to Bishop. Defending Nick Faldo’s playing record was not worth the attack on Poulter. Bishop got caught in a fight in which he never should have been involved. Who cares if Poulter wants to attack Faldo? If Faldo wants to tweet something silly back it would have at least made a bit more sense. Bishop going so hard at Poulter makes no sense.

Ted Bishop

As Mr. Bishop said today on Morning Drive, this was not a “firing offense.” In his words, “the punishment did not fit the crime.” The penalty handed down by the PGA board was harsh. Others have taken up the cause and written stories saying that the penalty was overly stiff.

I don’t agree. If he had stopped at Twitter I might have said that he just momentarily lost his mind, but he later went on Facebook where he was not limited to the number of characters and kept the rant going. This borders on a type of road rage in my opinion. After the first accident he chased the guy and wanted more. I am not a fan of his actions and the punishment fit the crime.

The lesson learned is that public figures and people who follow other people on Twitter need to take a deep breath before posting. Remember that you are holding a loaded gun and it can hurt the other person or even yourself. In Bishop’s case he shot himself squarely in the foot and will be scarred, forever, personally and professionally. Ultimately, he is the one who lost a great deal in this exchange. He can no longer be a part of the PGA in the way that every other past president is, and we can all learn a lesson from his actions.

Put the gun down, or at the very least, handle it carefully.

Photo credits: © Jeff Chiu.

5 thoughts on “The Tweet Heard ‘Round the Golfing World”

  1. The penalty was way way WAY too harsh. Are you kidding me? He said Poulter was acting like a little girl (true). Is this something you should say in polite company? No. But heck, he could have said “little boy” and the meaning would have been nearly identical. As the author notes, this is simply locker room trash talk. Is he dumb for engaging in it with Poulter, especially on a medium he’s obviously not well versed in (esp. considering Twitter is basically Poulter’s domain)? Yes. It’s like picking a fight with an opposing player in that players locker room… might not go well for you.

    BUT, should a man have his entire legacy ruined by this? Should he be fired? No way. Unless Bishop has a history of doing this behind the scenes that we just don’t know about and this was the last shoe to drop, it’s just silly.

  2. @dc3032 When I first heard of the sacking I thought that it was over the top as well, but the President of a conservative organization such as the PGA of America, should not sully himself with a fight on social media. If he was the CEO of Facebook or Google he might have gotten away with such a casual quip (although you might argue they would have been much more savvy about their attack). I also think he should not have made another attack later on Facebook afterwords. It was as though he did not think about what he was saying twice. I could understand the immediate mistake of twitter, maybe it was made on his mobile device in a locker room conversation with Faldo and it was just a foolish, but then to take to Facebook and say it again was just stupid. This makes me question his leadership.

  3. @Michael C. Hepp I hear what you’re saying, but all I’ve heard about Bishop before this incident was all that he had done for US golf during his tenure (I think Golf Channel even did a special on it… how good he’s been for the game, and so forth). Not sure one mistake (ok two, if you count the FB comment separate) should sully his reputation or cause people to “question his leadership”. This all is very knee-jerk and too politically correct for my taste. But the media loves a story, esp when it occurs during the slow off-season. Crucify him!!

  4. I watched Bishop’s interview on Morning Drive and did feel some sympathy for the guy, but I also felt that he still had that imperious attitude that probably played a very large part in the PGA of America’s board taking the action it did.

    Did the tweet alone merit the punishment meted out? I think most would probably agree that it did not. Did the stupidity displayed by Bishop to become involved in a spat (if it had even reached that level) between Poulter and Faldo, let alone in such a public forum, deserve such punishment? I think it did.

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