Commentary

Change golf's climate

Tours need to show racially insensitive comments won't be tolerated

Updated: May 22, 2013, 8:02 PM ET
By Jemele Hill | ESPN.com

I don't know what's worse -- the fact that Sergio Garcia resorted to the tired fried chicken jab or that he dishonored a food that most people, regardless of ethnicity, think is delicious.

At least when Fuzzy Zoeller cracked that Woods shouldn't serve fried chicken at his Masters champions dinner after Woods became the first African-American to win a major, Zoeller threw collard greens into the mix, adding some culinary variety to his gross insensitivity. Garcia's version: He said that if he got together with Woods at the U.S. Open, "we will serve fried chicken."

Sergio, if you're going to be racist, try to be creative about it.

Garcia is rightfully being vilified and lambasted by the media and even Woods himself. But you know who deserves equal, if not more criticism?

[+] EnlargeTiger Woods and Sergio Garcia
Stan Badz/PGA TOUR/Getty ImagesTiger Woods and Sergio Garcia shook hands at the first hole during the third round of The Players Championship earlier this month.

The PGA Tour.

The idiocy of Garcia's comments stands on its own. But what's far more unacceptable is that PGA Tour officials haven't responded substantively and stepped in to suspend Garcia. It doesn't matter that Garcia made these comments while on the European Tour. The PGA Tour can't stand by and let its most prominent golfer be insulted.

To start, Garcia should take it upon himself and sit out the next major. The PGA Tour should issue a suspension, fine Garcia handsomely, and maybe force him to eat a 10-piece meal from Popeyes.

So should the European Tour.

Garcia has tried to do some damage control. He has profusely apologized to Woods since making his insensitive remarks at a European Tour players dinner.

Garcia is a clown, but had the PGA Tour suspended Zoeller for his comments about Woods 16 years ago, maybe this wouldn't be an issue now.

Golf is quick to remind everyone that it is a "gentleman's sport," and that players adhere to a stricter standard of integrity than other athletes. It's time to prove its ethos isn't just a convenient philosophy, but a guiding principle.

Can you imagine if this happened in the NFL or NBA? I'm certain that Roger Goodell or David Stern would mete out justice aggressively, especially if it involved the biggest star in their sport.

In fact, let us not forget how swiftly Stern reacted when Kobe Bryant was caught on camera uttering a gay slur toward an official two years ago. Bryant was fined $100,000, but more importantly Stern immediately condemned the remark and set the precedent that such behavior would never be tolerated. 

Woods easily has been the most important golfer on the PGA Tour the past two decades, but he's also been a regular target for racially insensitive remarks.

After Fuzzy, announcer Kelly Tilghman said in 2008 that younger PGA players should "lynch [Woods] in the back alley," because he had been so dominant. In November 2011, Woods' former caddie Steve Williams said at the HSBC Caddie of the Year awards dinner that he wanted to shove Adam Scott's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational win up Tiger's "black arse----." Both statements also were followed by apologies. 

It's got to stop.

Tiger has made the sport and other golfers untold millions. He has kept it relevant. He also has helped golf broaden its audience and diminish the perception that the sport isn't very inclusive.

The PGA Tour owes Woods ultimate protection. It and the European Tour should never have allowed an environment where there aren't serious consequences for racially insensitive remarks toward Woods, or anyone else.

Besides, you mean to tell me it's easier to telephone a golf official and to describe a rules violation you think you observed on your TV with the potential to get Woods disqualified from a major tournament than it is to suspend a player for harming the sport's brand and image with stupid comments?

Certainly Garcia will lose money over this. One of his sponsors already has expressed disappointment, but that's not nearly enough. 

I guess the only way to get golf to respond is to anchor a belly putter.

Jemele Hill | email

ESPN.com, ESPN The Magazine

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