President Donald Trump awarded Tiger Woods the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House on Monday, calling the golfer “one of the greatest athletes in the history of sports.”
“We are in the presence of a true legend,” Trump said at the Rose Garden ceremony. “Tiger Woods is a global symbol of American excellence.”
Trump announced his plans to bestow the nation’s highest civilian honor upon Woods after he won this year’s Masters Tournament, his first major title in more than a decade. Woods’s victory was his 15th in one of golf’s four most important tournaments, and came after years of personal turmoil that included injuries, revelations of multiple affairs, and painkiller abuse.
Trump has remained close with the superstar golfer despite the scandals, and Woods designed a course in Dubai expected to be managed by the Trump Organization. The pair have played golf together repeatedly, including a round in February at the Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida.
Trump’s ventures in Dubai, where he licensed use of his name for various projects, have netted him millions in recent years, according to his financial disclosures. “We will be doing something very special,” Trump said in 2014 when the course’s owner, Damac Properties Dubai Co., announced its tie-up with Woods and the Trump Organization.
Democrats and good government groups regularly assail Trump for maintaining ownership of his businesses while in office. Yet a presidential medal to a sports star generally wouldn’t raise questions of conflicts.
The president has awarded the Medal of Freedom to a number of athletes, including Hall-of-Fame quarterback Roger Staubach of the Dallas Cowboys and nine-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Alan Page, who later became a justice on Minnesota’s Supreme Court. Trump also gave the honor posthumously to all-time baseball great Babe Ruth.
But many sports stars and teams have been reluctant to appear with Trump at the White House. The president canceled a visit by the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles in 2018 after the team said only a small delegation would attend.
And the World Series champions, the Boston Red Sox, who are visiting the White House later this week, will not be sending their full team. Red Sox manager Alex Cora said he wouldn’t attend because of what he sees as an inadequate response by the Trump administration to the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria in his native Puerto Rico.