Jennifer Mitchell/Splash News Online
January 05, 2010 03:35 PM

It’s been 39 days since Tiger Woods crashed his car outside his Orlando, Fla., home – and the golf superstar has not been seen in public since that night, a fact that could be doing permanent damage to his image.

One expert, John Eckel, CEO of Alliance, a sports and entertainment marketing company, says Woods’s behavior is a perfect example of what not to do. “Crisis 101 is you get out in front of the story as early as you can and tell the truth,” he says. “This is something Tiger never did.”

While a source close to Woods says, “Tiger is getting his head straight right now … and doing what he needs to do for his family and his well being, Eckel maintains there’s a risk to hiding out and not addressing his infidelity scandal head-on.

“This is Def Con 4 for his team,” says Eckel. “The hardest thing is to go in front of the media. The easiest thing is to back off – and that’s what they did.

“There are two courts – a legal court and the court of public opinion, and they ignored the court of public opinion,” he says. “He has been in a free fall with his endorsements and had he gotten out in front, some of that may have been preventable.”
PHOTO: ‘Raw’ Tiger Woods Shots on Cover of Vanity Fair
After the scandal broke, Woods was dropped by AT&T and by the consulting company Accenture.

Still, Nike has maintained their relationship with Woods. And EA Sports announced Monday that that they will continue working with Woods on their online golf game. “Our relationship with Tiger has always been rooted in golf,” they said. “By his own admission, he’s made some mistakes off the course. But regardless of what’s happening in his personal life, and regardless of his decision to take a personal leave from the sport, Tiger Woods is still one of the greatest athletes in history.”

The longer Woods waits to show himself, however, the more he may be hurting himself. “It does him no good,” says Eckel. “Had he come forward about his side of the story and an act of contrition, it would have played better than having it come out piecemeal. He would have taken all the oxygen out of all the women’s statements …. Every other day, another women was coming forward with new allegations with nobody there to refute it or nobody there to get in front of it.”
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Woods’s Dec. 11 announcement, which included an apology for his “infidelity” and a pledge to “focus my attention on being a better husband, father and person,” was a positive step.

“Common sense is that if there is an apology to be rendered, you make it,” notes Eckel. “The world, both his fans and the general marketplace, are very forgiving but when you deliberately make yourself inaccessible or disguise the truth, it inevitably comes out and it’s always worse.”

Reporting by STEVE HELLING

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