Tiger Woods had the mugshot heard 'round the world when he was arrested on suspicion of DUI, with the former world No. 1 transforming into a meme almost overnight. But people getting jokes off on Twitter weren't the only ones to alter Woods' image, because it looks like ESPN got caught red-handed cleaning up Woods' mugshot.
As a few people were happy to point out on Twitter, the crazy-haired Tiger from his mugshot looked a little tamer in ESPN's Sportscenter sidebar.
A variety of explanations were offered for the move, and how you feel about it probably depends on how you feel about ESPN. There were a lot of people who were quick to claim ESPN was trying to protect Woods—who has always helped drive the conversation about golf even when he's not playing—while others chalked it up to a common graphic design decision.
If this were actually a case of ESPN trying to hide Woods' slovenly appearance in the picture, it'd be easy to rake them over the coals for it. But although this looks bad on the surface for the network, they definitely did not hide the real version of Woods' mugshot, and at one point even featured the altered version alongside a bigger, more prominent placement of the OG mugshot.
Everyone wants to call every editorial decision they don't like "fake news" in 2017, but the most likely explanation is also the simplest—this was about simplicity for the graphic design team. ESPN said as much in a statement. “We have utilized a standard template for on-air headshots, which led to the background being dropped for consistency,” ESPN said. “We will revisit this process to improve it going forward.”
ESPN's primary job is to be an accurate source of news for consumers, not to make athletes look good. So before you denounce the network for life, take a breath and remember they stand to lose a lot more from lying to consumers than they do from showing an accurate picture.