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Tiger Woods reportedly consulting with Ari Fleischer

By A. James Memmott

March 12, 2010 at 9:40am

Ari Fleischer, the former spokesman for President George W. Bush, is fast becoming the go-to guy for athletes in need of reputation restoration.

In January, Fleischer helped baseball’s Mark McGwire spin his admission to having used steroids while a player.

According to the New York Post, Fleischer is now advising golf’s Tiger Woods on how his return to the sport after the revelation of his multiple affairs.

Ari Fleischer
Ari Fleischer

Citing an unnamed source, the Post wrote that Fleischer was in Wood’s home this week discussing how he should handle playing in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, a tournament that begins in Florida in two weeks.

Reached by other media, Fleischer would neither confirm nor deny the story.

In 2008, Fleischer formed Ari Fleischer Sports Communications, a joint venture with IMG Sports & Entertainment.

On its web site, the company declares that it can help athletes and sports executives “handle the bad news and take advantage of the good.”

Fleischer had earlier advised the Green Bay Packers during that team’s breakup with star quarterback Brett Favre.

He also consults with organizers of the Bowl Championship Series, the controversial year-end series of games that determines college football’s number one team.

Fleischer advised Major League Baseball from 2005 to last year. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer he helped the league during congressional hearings on performance-enhancing drugs.

McGwire had damaged his own reputation while testifying before Congress in 2005. Asked to talk about his own possible steroid use, he declined, saying he was not there to “talk about the past.”

That statement was widely interpreted as an admission of guilt.

Advised by Fleischer, McGwire made that admission official two months ago when he confessed to steroid use.

He first confessed in an interview with Bob Costas and then followed that appearance with a series of interviews.

The confession was not entirely successful, as critics questioned McGwire’s claim that steroids didn’t improve his hitting.

Woods presents a different kind of public relations challenge, as his transgressions have nothing to do with his abilities and performance as a golfer.

Rather, the news of his marital infedility shattered his unsullied public image, an image that has helped him receive millions of dollars in endorsement dollars.

In a step toward a comeback, Woods publicly apologized on Feb. 19 for his actions and said he planned to return to golf, though he didn’t say when.

It is assumed by many that Woods would like to play in the Masters the week of April 5. If he were to do that, it would be likely that he would play at least one tournament before that.

Gene Wojciechowski of ESPN.com wrote Thursday that Fleischer’s advice is not what Woods needs to ease his return to the sport.

“You rebuild your reputation through trust,” Wojciechowski wrote. “You earn trust by the depth and quality of your actions. This isn’t about image. At least, it shouldn’t be. Image is shallow, superficial, a facade.”

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