January 10, 2020 (New York, NY) — Athlete Ally responded today to news of Justin Thomas, the third-ranked pro golfer in the world, using an anti-gay slur following a missed putt at yesterday’s Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.
At the end of the round, Thomas issued an apology, telling Golf Channel, “It’s not who I am, it’s not the kind of person that I am or anything that I do, but it’s, unfortunately, I did it and I have to own up to it and I’m very apologetic.”
“An apology from Justin Thomas is a start,” said Joanna Hoffman, Director of Communications at Athlete Ally. “Now we hope to see it followed by education into the lived experiences of LGBTQI+ folks and how language can isolate and endanger, regardless of intent. Language like this plays a significant role in perpetuating a hostile environment that tells LGBTQI+ athletes and fans that they aren’t safe or welcome in sport, leading to LGBTQI+ athletes leaving sport at twice the rate of their cisgender, heterosexual peers.”
“Apologies are meaningful, but apologies in a sporting culture that seem to make statements in response to instances, rather than proactively working to genuinely grow the game, celebrate, empower and include LGBTQ+ and POC athletes and fans, aren’t very effective in creating a welcoming culture and setting a standard that discrimination is not okay, full stop,” said Maya Reddy, Athlete Ally Ambassador and former pro golfer.
“Golf’s ‘boys club’ culture is harmful. It can endorse discriminatory attitudes under the guise of “competitive masculinity” and “country club images” which allowed tournament directors and coaches to say xenophobic and homophobic jokes towards me; it’s allowed commentators like Hank Haney on major golf broadcasts to casually be racist and sexist towards LPGA tour athletes; it’s allowed Augusta National to take til 2012 to admit a female member. This incident shouldn’t stop at just an apology (no matter how meaningful it was) and should show us all that there is so much work to still be done in golf and sports to combat the exclusive and discriminatory competitive cultures that so often stem from toxic masculinity.”