Ralph Lauren drops sponsorship deal with disgraced golfer Justin Thomas after homophobic slur live on air
Ralph Lauren has terminated its sponsorship deal with disgraced golfer Justin Thomas after he blurted out a homophobic slur at the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
The world number three golf star had worn the company’s clothing since he turned pro, reaching number one in the world on two occasions and winning a major at 24.
He quickly fell from grace on Saturday (9 January), when he was caught angrily muttering the slur “faggot” live on air at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.
“We are disheartened by Mr Thomas’s recent language, which is entirely inconsistent with our values,” Ralph Lauren said in a statement.
“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.
“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.”
Ralph Lauren added that it hopes 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.”
Thomas apologised profusely for using the slur, which slipped out when he botched a five-foot putt on the fourth hole.
“There’s just no excuse,” he admitted to Reuters. “There’s absolutely no reason for me to say anything like that. It’s terrible. It’s not the kind of person that I am.
“I need to do better. I deeply apologise to anyone and everybody who I offended and I’ll be better because of it.”
Justin Thomas outburst is the tip of the iceberg in golf, says former pro
The PGA Tour agreed that Thomas’ comment was “unacceptable”, but the gay former professional golfer Maya Reddy suggested it was entirely consistent with the exclusive, anti-LGBT+ culture that is “embedded” in golf.
“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,” she told Sky Sports.
“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.”
The ongoing discrimination eventually led to her retirement from golf, and she now works as an advocate for LGBT+ inclusion in sports.
Meanwhile, Thomas will return to action on the European Tour next week and is one of the headline acts at the star-studded Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.