Golf is one of those sports that has long maintained a reputation as a genteel, sometimes very proper and quiet endeavor. Likewise, PGA Tour golfers rarely come with the bombastic flair we’ve come to expect from athletes of the NFL and NBA.
And as a sport that may naturally appeal much more to the financial advisor or bank president than the college professor or self-described social activist, professional golf has still kept a reasonable distance from anything that sounds outwardly sociopolitical. That said, 2020 isn’t a typical year in American history.
Ever since the May 25, 2020, killing of George Floyd by the Minneapolis Police, America has experienced a social upheaval, as millions of protestors have taken to the streets of almost every city both inside the Unites States and abroad. It has also spawned an international conversation that has moved from the streets and city council halls to social media.
Early last month, June 2 was designated as #blackouttuesday, and it gave both everyday citizens and famous names the opportunity to express support and solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. As such, many of the PGA Tour’s top golfers joined in to express their support, with Instagram and Twitter seemingly the lead social media channels.
Among the top 20 ranked American PGA Tour golfers who posted a black square or personal statement on June 2 were longtime World No. 1 and current No. 6 Brooks Koepka, along with newly tipped No. 3 Justin Thomas, as well as Webb Simpson (No. 5), Patrick Cantlay (No. 10), Tiger Woods (No. 14), Gary Woodland (No. 18) and Tony Finau (No. 19).
A number of top golf pros originating from outside the U.S. also joined in. Among them were World No. 2 golfer Jon Rahm, of Spain, plus Tommy Fleetwood (No. 12) and Justin Rose (No. 16), both of England.
Some bigger names from outside the current top 20 rankings also participated, including three-time majors winner Jordan Spieth (No. 61), Rickie Fowler (No. 31) and three-time Masters winner Phil Mickelson (No. 69).
Current World No. 1 Rory McIlroy told reporters last month that he hoped to see golf become more racially diverse in the near future. McIlroy mentioned Tiger Woods as one of his own personal inspirations for pursuing golf at a young age.
“Tiger doesn’t look the same as me, (and) has had a very different upbringing to the one that I have had, but he was my hero growing up,” McIlroy said publicly, prior to the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club, in Ft. Worth, Texas, June 11, 2020.
Notably absent from the conversation, among the current top ten ranked golfers were Dustin Johnson (No. 5), Bryson DeChambeau (No. 7), Patrick Reed (No. 8) and Adam Scott (No. 9). Scott, the Australian golfer who won the 2013 Masters Tournament, has been presumably on hiatus since the Arnold Palmer Invitational in early March, and relatively silent overall. With the exception of DeChambeau, the other aforementioned golfers tend to post on their socials on an infrequent basis.
Some members of the PGA Tour went above and beyond posting a black square on #blackouttuesday.
Tony Finau, a father of four and devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, posted a video to his Instagram account, stating that “the worst thing I can say is absolutely nothing.”
VIDEO: Tony Finau shares his perspective on social justice and racial profiling.
Finau added, alongside his post: “Silence is not a position I will take. It is time to add greater understanding to our perspectives.”
In similar fashion, Jon Rahm posted a follow up note in both English and Spanish, on his Twitter account.
In follow-up statements, Rahm also referred to the June protests as the biggest civil rights movement in modern history, and stated that it has driven him to want to reach and influence as many people as possible.
During the Charles Schwab Challenge, the first stateside PGA Tour event to take place after both #blackouttuesday and the long pause in play from the COVID-19 outbreak, a daily moment of silence was held each day at 8:46 A.M. EST, to pay respects to George Floyd and also symbolize the 8 minutes and 46 seconds that former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck.
From the broadcast booth that weekend, commentator Jim Nantz also weighed in, emphasizing the importance of competition “to the American spirit.” Nantz also noted that the return of pro golf and sports in general could represent an opportunity for America to heal, “as we look for anything to help unify our splintered nation.”
Equally, the biggest name in golf and one of the biggest names in sports, Tiger Woods, also posted a statement regarding the death of George Floyd.
In a June 1 post, Woods said, “My heart goes out to Floyd’s family, his loved ones,” and also “all of us who are hurting right now.”
Woods mentioned the 1992 L.A. Riots, following the beating by police of Rodney King, but also added that he has always had “the utmost respect for our law enforcement.”
“They train so diligently to understand how, when and where to use force,” but Woods added that the killing of George Floyd marked an incident in which the use of force by police was a “shocking tragedy (that) clearly crossed that line.”