This week’s BMW PGA Championship is the flagship event of the European Tour; that tour’s equivalent to The Players Championship on the PGA Tour. It is played at Wentworth, the headquarters of the European Tour, just as TPC Sawgrass is the home of the PGA Tour. But this year’s edition of the BMW PGA will certainly go down as one to forget.
What should be a week for the tour to celebrate its players and its greatest event has turned into nothing short of a public relations nightmare. Racially insensitive jokes, use of inappropriate terms to describe groups of people, complaints that no one knows what they can and cannot say and four of the tour’s elite players missing the cut have marred this year’s event.
It started Tuesday evening at the Player Awards Gala. Europe’s victorious Ryder Cup team was on stage being interviewed and accepting recognition for their dramatic come-from-behind victory last fall at Medinah.
Sergio Garcia, who had been in a back-and-forth media spat with Tiger Woods stemming from an incident in the third round of The Players when the two were paired together, was jokingly asked if he planned to have Woods over for dinner at his house during the US Open three weeks from now.
Garcia responded, “We will have him ‘round every night. We will serve him fried chicken.”
Garcia offered an apology the next day to assembled media. He said that he understood that his remarks were inappropriate and that he was trying to respond to the joking question with his own humor. Of course, it ended up being a cold shank out of bounds. Nevertheless, it seemed this would start to die down as the actual tournament began.
Thursday European Tour Chief Executive George O’Grady, in an attempt to deflect some of the heat off of Garcia offered this shocking statement:
Yes, you heard that correctly. “We accept all races on the European Tour…Most of Sergio’s friends happen to be colored athletes in the United States.”
I beg your pardon, George, but what color are most of Sergio’s friends? Do they get to use the same restrooms and water fountains? Did you just emerge from The DeLorean with Marty McFly back from 1955?
Humor aside; this, in my opinion, is a bigger gaffe than Sergio’s original remark! How can a high level administrator, in any field, not have an understanding of what words should and should not be used to describe groups of people in 2013?
And the topper is that the sentence before, O’Grady firmly stated that the European Tour accepts all races For O’Grady to have a blunder such as this, in the wake of Garcia’s comments, is baffling.
I should apply the same logic to O’Grady that I applied to Sergio, and I will. O’Grady is absolutely right that the European Tour is accepting of all races. The tour features members from the six populated continents on earth and plays (or sanctions) events on five of those continents (sans South America). Just as Garcia’s comments do not categorize him as a racist, neither do O’Grady’s. He can’t possibly run a tour with such diversity in its membership, winners and venues and be a racist. He might have been a numbskull in the moment of his comments, but certainly not a racist.
Speaking of numbskulls…enter Colin Montgomerie; because everyone was dying to know his stance on all of this, right?
There may be some truth to the first part of his statement that Garcia’s “fried chicken” comment was a “mountain out of a molehill.” Surely Sergio’s attempt at humor from Tuesday evening’s awards gala garnered plenty of worldwide attention because it was directed at Tiger Woods. But naturally, Monty could not did not stop there.
I hope it hasn’t taken away from the BMW who have set up a fantastic tournament.
Actually, Colin, it has. And you are taking more away with your comments, [spoiler alert] at least what you’re about to say next…
Now we’ve got the [European Tour] chief executive involved in the whole thing having to say ‘sorry’. Christ, we’re all frightened to say anything; we’re frightened to open our mouths in case we say something that isn’t kosher in 2013.
I have an idea for Monty: if you’re worried about what you can or cannot say to offend people, you might start by not using the name of the central figure of the most widely practiced religion in the world in vein. Just an idea, though.
Not to pat myself on the back but I did tweet this prediction Thursday evening:
I suppose I got it mostly correct, huh? Anyway back to Monty’s plea for clarity:
Somebody should tell us what to say because no one is quite sure what is right and wrong. George [O’Grady] says ‘colored’, somebody says ‘black’. But who is to say who is right and wrong? And for the chief executive, who is a very educated man, to get caught up, we need to decide what we can and can’t say and move on quickly.
The one thing I have always appreciated about Montgomerie is that he is not shy in front of a microphone, even if he tends to spew some blockheaded things on occasion. Let’s make a couple of things perfectly clear: first, O’Grady’s education [clearly] doesn’t preclude him from choosing the wrong word. Second, surely we can all agree that describing any group of people by the term “colored” should stay in the historical archives of Apartheid-era South Africa and the segregated 1950s in the American South.
For O’Grady to get “caught up” was his own doing, accidental as it might have been. He was not baited into using that term. Moreover, he “unreservedly apologize[d]” after the interview. If anything, Mr. Montgomerie was stirring the pot back up.
Finally, since the newly-minted Hall of Famer asked for a decision on what can and cannot be said, whom might he nominate to make such a list? Himself? No, he already offended a religious group. How about referring to one of the least common things in the world, common sense? Realize Garcia, O’Grady and Montgomerie himself are not actually victims in this fiasco.