To what degree does the image of a sports icon become tarnished by his or her off-field activities? Should it matter? And does it all ultimately come down to what advertisers care about, or are there any interests beyond the financial in play in the case of Tiger Woods’ decision to take an “indefinite break from professional golf,” as he announced he was doing via his Web site on Friday?

Granted, Woods has become a one-man industry over the course of his career, landing top golf titles as well as lucrative endorsement deals, a couple of which may have suffered since reports of his alleged extramarital affairs broke after Thanksgiving. Other sports stars including Serena Williams and Michael Phelps have also recently faced PR challenges following publicized missteps, further underscoring how the sports business, like politics, has merged with show business.

But do these incidents, and especially the press coverage that ensues, amount to just another form of distracting headline-gobbling on the part of a celebrity-saturated news media, or is there any “there there,” as it were? We invite your thoughts. –KA

The New York Times:

Woods, the top-ranked golfer in the world and the multimillion-dollar face for numerous companies that he endorses, has not been seen in public since crashing his SUV into a neighbor’s tree in an early-morning accident on Nov. 27. He has spent the last two weeks in his Orlando, Fla., area home, recovering from injuries and hearing a flood of reports of marital infidelities linking him to multiple women that have swamped the worldwide airwaves.

In his third statement since the accident drove him into seclusion, Woods again used his Web site to reiterate and amplify his apologies for the fallout from the alleged multiple affairs to which he has alluded without ever admitting.

“I am deeply aware of the disappointment and hurt that my infidelity has caused to so many people, most of all my wife and children,” Woods wrote. “I want to say again to everyone that I am profoundly sorry and that I ask forgiveness. It may not be possible to repair the damage I’ve done, but I want to do my best to try.”

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