Reputed fashion brand Ralph Lauren has ended sponsorship deal with 13-time PGA Tour winner and former world number one Justin Thomas after the golfer was found using a homophobic slur. The incident occurred during the Sentry Tournament of Champions’ third round in Hawaii when he missed a six-foot par putt. The resulting problematic words were caught by television microphones.
Immediately after his round, Thomas spoke to Golf channel and apologised on-air by saying that he was unaware that he had said it, given the heat of the moment. He further added, “There’s just no excuse. 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.” However, this apology couldn’t save him from the following consequences as the apparel company, one of his major sponsors, declared the discontinuation of his sponsorship deal.
A statement from the corporation said, “We are disheartened by Thomas’s recent language, which is entirely inconsistent with our values. While we acknowledge that he has apologised and recognises 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. As we make this decision, our hope is that 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 backlash didn’t end here as the PGA Tour is set to fine Thomas for his inexcusable conduct which seemed like an unbecoming of a professional. The fact that this is not the first time something like this has happened makes the incident more disheartening.
In 2014, Patrick Reed used a slur after a three-putt during the WGC-HSBC Champions in China. More recently in March 2020, the PGA Tour player Scott Piercy shared a homophobic meme on Instagram about Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend mayor and a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. Piercy was also reprimanded in a similar way as he was dropped by all of his sponsors including Titleist, FootJoy, and J. Lindeberg.