Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Race and Golf: An Intelligent Discussion?

I'm taking Dave Seanor up on his challenge of inspiring an intelligent discussion about race and golf. Clearly the noose did not work, so I am hoping that some work of mine will. I have talked about race and golf before the incident, but I'm penning a piece for Sports Central that will talk about the issues involved at some length. With data from the National Golf Foundation and the First Tee, I think we can begin to have a conversation about participation by African-Americans in golf and why it is not better, and racist perceptions about the game. I'll link it here when it is posted.

I use the question mark in the post title because I'll leave the judgment of the article's intelligence to you.

In the meantime, Len Shapiro over at the Washington Post has a nice piece that touches on similar themes as mine - particularly related to faces in pro golf being almost all white. Here's the main part I'd like you to read:

Still, if Golfweek had wanted to address race and golf, there were countless ways to go about it without putting a noose on the cover.

Why not publish a story on the fact that almost 15 years since Tiger Woods started winning national amateur championships, he remains the only African American currently playing on the PGA Tour, with only one other African American on the satellite Nationwide Tour?

When I wrote a similar story in The Post's sports section a few years ago to mark the 10th anniversary of Woods turning professional, I loved the way my own editors illustrated the piece. They gathered head shot pictures of the top 125 exempt players on the tour and displayed them on the front page, making it very obvious that Woods was the only African American in golf's mostly-white big picture.

Seanor and his magazine's readers might have been better served by a story pointing out that there still is not an African American woman playing on the LPGA Tour, and less than a handful of African Americans in the top 100 rankings among junior boys and girls.

Another pertinent story on race and golf would include an examination of all the governing bodies of the sport, where racial diversity is almost nonexistent. In the 2007 PGA Tour media guide, for example, there are 15 officials pictured in the list of employees in the office of the commissioner and the tour's executive committee. Every one is a white male.

The PGA of America and the U.S. Golf Association are not much better at the top, or the bottom, for that matter, of their paid executive and administrative staffs, or in the hierarchy of their volunteer leaders. There's never been an African American president or executive director of the USGA or the PGA of America. And the LPGA has no African American men or women at the upper tier of its organizational chart either.

The fact that Golfweek doesn't have a single African American employee in its editorial division also is a disgrace, an inexcusable void the publisher who fired Seanor might think about correcting, the sooner the better.

And by the way, the Golf Channel -- not to mention the golf divisions at NBC and CBS -- is hardly a bright and shining example of diversity. There are no African Americans in the upper echelons of TGC's executive or production divisions. And only two on-air Golf Channel broadcasters -- Iain Page, an occasional Golf Central anchor, and Brandy Seymour, who does interviews at Nationwide Tour events -- are African Americans.

There are no black producers or directors on the network's PGA Tour team, perhaps one reason no one was in Tilghman's earpiece after her lynching comment, telling her she'd be wise to immediately apologize for the remark. Nor did anyone back in Orlando bother to take out her incendiary remark when the replay of the second round was aired early the next morning.

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