Given his reputation for vanity and extraordinary discipline, you can be assured the only fried chicken Tiger Woods has seen lately has been on a highway billboard on his way to or from a punishing weights session.
But Sergio Garcia trotted out the lame and very dated racist gibe all the same, in response to a leading question from Golf Channel’s Steve Sands. What might he serve Woods if he came over to dinner during the US Open?
“We will have him round every night. We will serve fried chicken.”
Woods went to Twitter to make it clear he was offended, for which Garcia unreservedly apologised. He did seem genuinely rattled by his gaffe. That seemed to be enough for the sport’s governing bodies. No sanctions were imposed on Garcia.
But if European PGA Tour chief George O’Grady thought he was helping the two foes make up and move on and getting the public to forget the whole unfortunate business, he was sadly mistaken.
Employing the expression “coloured athletes” is just as offensive and anachronistic.
When social media rightfully got into a flap about that, O’Grady issued his own apology.
What year is this: 2013 or 1963?
Golf was supposed to have moved on from the bad old days of country-club chauvinism and the good ol’ boy mentality.
But it’s still a sport mostly played by entitled, socially myopic white men. Participation at all levels of the game by people of non-white background is low compared to football or cricket.
Garcia is from Spain, a country with a serious problem of racism in sport.
Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton, a mixed-race man of Grenadian ancestry, has been the victim of racist taunts. The Cameroonian Samuel Eto’o was a frequent target for racist yobs when he was playing in the Primera Liga. National football coach Luis Aragonés got into a severe spot of bother after calling Antillean-origin French striker Thierry Henry a negro de mierda, which doesn’t need to be translated here.
About the only other European country with a worse reputation for denigrating black athletes is Italy with Serbia closely behind.
Racism or racial prejudice is not an insignificant issue.
Arguably western Europe is the new “South” for golf and for that reason alone golf’s authorities owe Woods, other players from non-white backgrounds and the future wellbeing of the sport much more than paying lip service to it.
Garcia’s comment appeared to be – as he insisted – meant in jest. Even so, there was a pejorative subtext to it that isn’t light-hearted and shouldn’t be shrugged off, as it has been.
Woods himself says: “It’s long past time to move on and talk about golf.”
I agree. But if nothing is done to seriously arrest the undercurrent of racism in the sport now and encourage more people of non-white background or from ethnic minorities to pick up a club, there won’t be any golf to talk about in a few decades’ time.
Garcia should be made an example of and punished.