So it took me overnight and a morning coffee to put together my thoughts regarding Justin Thomas and Ralph Lauren severing ties. Last night, I was checking my website statistics and noticed an anomaly, a total up spike in views. Curious, I checked to see what was driving those hits and it was a press release dating back to June of 2018.
In that release it discussed the details of the partnership established between Thomas and the fashion magnate. Just in case you were unaware, did you know that Thomas has been with Ralph Lauren wearing the Polo brand since turning professional in 2013.
On January 15th, Ralph Lauren delivered a statement that they were no longer sponsoring Justin Thomas, this coming on the heels of Thomas being caught on camera uttering a homophobic slur during last week’s Sentry Tournament of Champions (see the statement below).
Last night, I sat back and sort of digested the statement and the situation as a whole. Social media, Golf Twitter in particular, was abuzz last night with the news. While there was a scattering of support for Ralph Lauren in making the right decision to drop the sponsorship, there were others that admonished Ralph Lauren for doing so. One verified account tweeted that Thomas would be “better for it”. Honestly, I don’t understand the context of the tweet. If he means that someone else will just turn around and sign Thomas, then I agree. Ultimately, somebody will. How long will it take? I wonder what the over/under is in terms of days for this according to Vegas oddsmakers.
The only reason why I’m not publishing the tweet is because I don’t want to give the individual more press. The individual in this case is a part of a team that rhymes with “Parfool”.
Justin Thomas has apologized for the incident, and those apologies were quite contrite. In my opinion, I think that Ralph Lauren made the right decision. They owe it to their shareholders and all of those affiliated with the brand. From upper management to the design team, they had to show that they are a forward-thinking company that will not tolerate the actions displayed by Thomas or anybody else for that matter. For fear of this coming out prejudiced or stereotyped (please don’t take it this as an inflammatory comment) there’s a chance that members of the LGBTQ+ community are employed by the brand.
So, where does this put him in the eyes of Acushnet? If you might recollect, a precedent has been set by Titleist and their policy regarding homophobic slurs. Scott Piercy. Do you remember when Scott Piercy posted that homophobic meme regarding former presidential candidate, Pete Buttigieg, who is openly homosexual? They (Titleist and FootJoy) unceremoniously turfed Piercy from further sponsorship. But, that situation is a little bit different and here’s the reason why.
In the case of Piercy, you could easily identify that him posting the meme was, easily premediated. As far as Thomas goes, it was almost like a “crime of passion” in that it was the heat of the moment and it resulted in some pretty bad “verbal diarrhea”. Crimes committed as “acts of passion” still receive a guilty verdict. By any means, I definitely do not condone what he said. It was the proverbial “heat of the moment”. That’s the fundamental difference between the two cases. It doesn’t make it right. Will Titleist and FootJoy drop him? Honestly, I don’t think that they will.
Getting back to the statement from Ralph Lauren and my dissection of it. If you read it, there is one passage that stands out.
“…our hope is that Mr. Thomas does the hard and necessary work in order to partner with us again”. This part of the statement tells me that Ralph Lauren has not totally slammed the door shut. It seems that if both parties are in agreement, they could reconcile down the road. Thus, this is why I say that the partnership has been suspended even though “discontinued” has been used.
One way or another, Thomas shouldn’t have said what he did. He knows that there are cameras and microphones everywhere. It’s a televised PGA TOUR event, the first of the calendar year, and golfers abroad are watching. Out of all of the things that you can call yourself, there are better options than what he said. I personally recommend “dumbass”, “idiot”, “you asshole Justin”, or something else along those lines. Justin, you had to be aware of your surroundings.
It’s a shame that this happened in the first place, but I sincerely hope that he learns from this. I’ve never met JT, but he seems like a pretty good guy albeit a fiery competitor. What’s your take?
Until The Next Tee!!