When top PGA golfer Justin Thomas missed a seven-foot putt on January 9th in the third round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, he uttered an anti-gay slur — at himself.
The utterance caused a stir, and on Friday, the Ralph Lauren Corporation announced it “decided to discontinue our sponsorship” of Thomas.
“We are disheartened by Mr. Thomas’s recent language, which is entirely inconsistent with our values. While we acknowledge that he has apologized and recognizes the severity of his words, he is a paid ambassador of our brand, and his actions conflict with the inclusive culture that we strive to uphold,” the company said in a statement.
“In reflecting on the responsibility we have to all of our stakeholders, we have decided to discontinue our sponsorship of Mr. Thomas at this time. As we make this decision, our hope is that Mr. Thomas does the hard and necessary work in order to partner with us again – truly examining this incident, learning, growing, and ultimately using his platform to promote inclusion.”
The company also said: “At the Ralph Lauren Corporation, we believe in the dignity of all people, regardless of age, race, gender identity, ethnicity, political affiliation, or sexual orientation. This is part of our longstanding commitment to foster cultures of belonging – in the workplace and in communities around the world.”
Thomas, who had been sponsored by Ralph Lauren since turning pro in 2013, apologized after his round for saying the “f-word.”
“There’s just no excuse,” Thomas told Golf Channel shortly afterward. “I’m an adult. I’m a grown man. There’s absolutely no reason for me to say anything like that. It’s terrible. I’m extremely embarrassed. It’s not who I am. It’s not the kind of person that I am. But unfortunately, I did it and I have to own up to it and I’m very apologetic.”
“Like I said, it’s inexcusable. I’m speechless. It’s bad. There’s no other way to put it. I need to do better. I need to be better. It’s definitely a learning experience. I deeply apologize to anyone and everybody who I offended and I’ll be better because of it,” he said.
The PGA Tour has also spoken out about the incident. “As he expressed after his round, we agree that Justin’s comment was unacceptable,” the PGA Tour said in a statement, according to Golf Digest. Thomas still faces the possibility of being fined by the Professional Golfers Association.
It isn’t the first time a professional golfer has expressing anti-gay sentiments. Last year, four-time PGA Tour winner Scott Piercy was dropped by five sponsors after sharing a homophobic meme on Instagram that mocked former Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, who is gay. Afterward, Piercy wrote on social media: “Whenever i [sic] post my intent is NEVER to offend. I want to apologize if any of my recent story posts have been offensive. I will do better!”
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