Disgraced golfer Justin Thomas’ homophobic outburst is the tip of the iceberg, says gay former pro
Gay former professional golfer Maya Reddy has said that Justin Thomas’ anti-LGBT+ language reflects homophobia in golf.
Thomas has apologised “deeply” in recent days after he was caught using homophobic language during a tournament.
Reddy, however, has said it points to a bigger issue within the sport.
In 2016, at the age of 23, Reddy qualified to play the LPGA’s developmental tour, the Symetra Tour.
But, she told Sky Sports, she ended up walking away from the opportunity altogether because of homophobic discrimination, which she said was heightened in the run-up to Donald Trump’s election.
She said: “There seemed to be permission given to people to say things and be more blatantly hateful… I experienced a lot of that on the golf course.”
Reddy, who is South Asian and grew up California, added: “I had tournament directors on mini-tours say xenophobic, racist, and homophobic things to me on the first tee, in the guise of a joke.
“Which makes it difficult, because as soon as you say something in response, they question your sense of humour and say they’re only joking.”
“I felt like I just didn’t belong there and had to constantly prove I had a place on this golf course,” she added.
Reddy explained that while coming out publicly helped her personally, the ongoing discrimination eventually let to her retirement.
“I ended up having a mental and emotional breakdown and had to step away from the sport,” she said.
Maya Reddy says there is an anti-LGBT+ culture ’embedded’ in golf.
On Justin Thomas’ use of the homophobic slur, and his subsequent apology, Maya Reddy said she was “in two minds” about the incident.
Reddy, who now works as an advocate for LGBT+ inclusion in sports, said: “I think the fact that he apologised about it so quickly and with force, saying that this wasn’t OK and that he should do better, is really important because he acknowledges the harm that using that specific slur causes.”
On the other hand, she felt frustrated that “that it was so easy for him to jump to that word”.
“Whether you like it or not, because of the platform you have, you are a role model so you have to act accordingly,” she continued.
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“So I do sympathise with the need to shout when you miss a putt like Thomas did. However, the fact that the word he used was a violent slur against a marginalised community, is really important to take note of.
“The question is, why was it almost second nature for him to use that word? For Thomas to use a word that has been used discriminately and violently against gay communities, with such ease, shows that golf still has this culture embedded within it.
“It also demonstrates that golf is rooted in this very particular culture, and golf hasn’t always been a very inclusive sport. When you see something like this happen, it emphasises that exclusive culture.”
What did Justin Thomas say?
On Saturday (9 January), during the third round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, Thomas missed a five-foot putt on the fourth hole.