Sports and Politics Have Always Mixed – Usually for the Better

Posted by: mike July 14th, 2017

By Ted Johnson


Journalists for eons have been reviled. It’s part of the job. Many who object to the “politicization” of the questions to participants prior to this week’s U.S. Women’s Open seem to think that sports exist in a bubble.

A look back in our nation's history shows politics deeply embedded in sports. The treatment of Jim Thorpe called into question our nation’s history with Native Americans. Jesse Owens couldn’t sit in some restaurants, was spit upon by Nazis in 1936 Berlin and yet came home a hero. Jackie Robinson’s introduction into Major League Baseball signified a significant shift in racial issues in the U.S. I could go on from Muhammed Ali to Colin Kaepernick.

During the press conferences, golfers all said they wanted to focus on golf, not the person who happens to own the course. No one three weeks ago was talking about who owned Erin Hills in Wisconsin. But Trump changed all that.

Nearly eight years ago, journalists in and out of the golf world were reviled when they asked other PGA Tour members how they felt about Elin Nordegren taking a 9-iron to the back window of a Suburban. The golfers didn’t ask for it, but it was a fair question because it was so outside the ordinary. Could Tiger Woods’ fellow pros provide any insight into this event? That was the essence of many questions, as well as a chance to show their support.

Those who know golf know that the USGA makes decisions on where to hold its championships years in advance. I read it decided to bring this year’s Open to Bedminster in 2012 – long before Trump was a candidate.Trump

Furthermore, a few years ago the idea of Donald Trump being quoted saying he grabs women indiscriminately and they let him do it because he’s famous seemed laughable. That he would then become President was unfathomable. But both happened.

It’s the world we live in. Trump’s words changed the context of this year’s U.S. Women’s Open. How that came to be known is secondary. He said those things, admitted doing so and tried to apologize. Tiger spent time with porn stars, admitted it, and went into rehab. He’s divorced.

Trump last year said discriminatory things about Hispanics, and just like that the PGA Tour moved its tournament from Trump Doral to Mexico. Why? Because the PGA Tour knows it is a brand and wants only good associations for its brand. That line of thinking calls into question why Executive Director Mike Davis and the USGA didn’t move this year’s Women’s Open from Bedminster, or at least made a statement why it should or could not.

There is very little question that Trump's remarks were rude, crude and unbecoming of someone who “supports” women’s golf. Having the Open is another way for him to advertise his brand. By not moving, and in contrast to the PGA TOUR, Mike Davis and the USGA got some mud splashed on their traditional blue blazers.

Yes, the women themselves are caught in the middle, but the questions are essential in this current state of affairs. The questions were essential when journalists asked white players what they thought of playing with Robinson, or what any athlete thought of our best athletes boycotting the ’68 Summer Olympics.

It’s the world we live in, and this case in Bedminster stems from Trump creating the turmoil in the first place. The USGA's reaction says it all.