Why golf should have responded quicker to Williams slur
WARNING: This blog contains language some may find offensive.
Until a statement issued at the completion of the HSBC WGC Champions tournament in Shanghai, there had been no official comment from the golfing authorities in the wake of the caddie's racial slur against Tiger Woods on Friday evening.
The International Federation of PGA Tours had to address the issue because the absence of condemnation from the top of the game would only reinforce a perception that golf has a race problem.
Steve Williams, one time caddie for American golfer Tiger Woods, has stunned the world of golf with an extraordinary racist insult against his former employer.PHOTO: Getty
The statement issued through PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem and European Tour Chief Executive George O’Grady read: “We consider the remarks of Steve Williams, as reported, entirely unacceptable in whatever context.
“We are aware he has apologised fully and we trust we will not hear such remarks ever again. Based on this, we consider the matter closed and we will have no further comment.”
Why it took until after the tournament was completed for official condemnation to arrive is hard to fathom. An immediate response was required on Saturday morning to show that Williams’s remarks were not acceptable.
This would also have helped shut down the story and would have allowed a superb tournament with fine sponsors to reclaim the headlines.
At least Couples offered a timely and strong opinion. The United States’ skipper said: "If that was Joe LaCava he wouldn't be caddying for me today.”
LaCava is Couples’ former caddie who now works for Woods. Couples added: “If a caddie has that kind of anger for a pretty good guy, I don't want him around me.”
On Friday it was a boisterous, funny and supposedly off-the-record evening when the caddies hand out their end-of-year awards.
When Williams was called up to collect a prize for the way he celebrated winning at Akron with Adam Scott in the wake of being sacked by Woods, he was asked about the manner of his celebrations last August. Williams replied by saying: “It was my aim to shove it right up that black arsehole.”
By referring to the colour of Woods’s skin, the comments of his former caddie became the talk of the evening and inevitably found their way into the newspapers.
Yes it was supposed to be a fun evening but a comment of this nature was never going to stay within the four walls of a room occupied by some of the biggest names in world golf.
Williams’s current employer Scott expressed disappointment that it was made public – but he should have been more concerned with the damaging nature of his caddie’s words.
At least the Australian was the man who instructed Williams to apologise. After his final round in Shanghai, Scott said: “I don’t think anyone condones racism in sport. I had Steve issue an apology. What more should I do?”
There is no room for racist behaviour but some context is important. The offending words were said at a boisterous evening with ripe locker room banter flying left, right and centre.
It would have been entirely in keeping for Williams to seek a laugh at Woods’s expense – indeed it was probably expected.
But he did it in an unsophisticated manner and, as he acknowledged in the apology, in a way that could be construed as racist.
That was unacceptable and the Tours and Scott should have said so more quickly than they did.
Some commentators have called for Williams to be drummed out of the game but that could be seen as draconian because some people on the circuit feel he is a victim of his own shortcomings as a public speaker.
He is undoubtedly lacking social grace and, given the nature of the evening, I find it hard to believe the phrase was laced with the malice one usually associates with such comments.
Maybe that is an overly generous assessment but what is certain is that his actions should not go without censure.
It remains a hugely damaging thing for Williams to have said and highly detrimental to the game that pays his wages.
Regrettably, it also means it won't be just golf that will dominate the news agenda for this week's Australian Open where Scott and Woods are both playing and the following week's Presidents' Cup in Melbourne where the two players are on opposing sides.