Another day, another controversial comment in the golf world.
First things first: Patrick Reed’s use of a gay slur toward himself after missing a putt shouldn’t be tolerated. There shouldn’t be an excuse offered of, “Oh, everyone’s done that.” The powers-that-be should work to change the culture of such comments, so they aren’t deemed socially acceptable anymore. If Reed gets held up as that example, well, he deserves it. (Editor's note: Reed did apologize via Twitter following his round.)
Let’s also, however, treat this situation with some semblance of common sense.
On the heels of Ted Bishop’s “Lil’ Girl” comment toward Ian Poulter that became the final straw in his impeachment as PGA of America president, there exists an increased hypersensitivity toward any language which can be deemed offensive.
Some have sneered and through gritted teeth referred to this as political correctness gone wrong, but the reality is that it’s progression. It’s an advancement that needed to happen. Just as racist comments are hardly tolerated in any vain, society needs to similarly eradicate all sexist and homophobic gestures.
Don’t confuse these two recent high-profile comments as one and the same, though.
There is a palpable difference between an executive leader whose role includes the inclusionary practice of growing the game taking the time to thumb multiple social media posts that demean a professional golfer by calling him female, and a player having a visceral reaction to missing a putt. In these two situations, there are widely varying degrees of intent from much different sources.
These are blurred lines, of course, and in a game where it’s often said, “there are no pictures on the scorecard,” there is no way of quantifying how damaging each of these comments are by assigning them a final score. There is too much gray area, too many fine points on either side of the debate.
Again, it’s all part of the progression of culture. Twenty, 10, maybe even five years ago, Reed’s comment might have passed through the ether without a discussion of its significance. That conversation is at least taking place now, which represents advancement.
Reed isn’t the first golfer to issue a slur toward himself in response to performance – and he certainly won’t be the last. He’s being held up as the example here, but he deserves that role. If shining a spotlight on his transgression helps curtail such behavior in the future, though, then it shouldn’t be viewed as political correctness gone wrong or much ado about nothing.
It should be considered progress.