May
22
2013
Video: Sergio apologizes for racist remark, Tiger and the golf world respond
By Stephanie Wei under European PGA Tour
Sergio loses another round

Sergio loses another round

The Tiger Woods/Sergio Garcia feud — which doesn’t just date back to The Incident at The Players Championship, rather it has a long history spanning over more than a decade of bad blood– was an amusing and relatively trivial soap opera until it turned ugly on Tuesday night.

At the European Tour players’ awards dinner in England, Golf Channel’s Steve Sands asked Sergio in jest if he would have Tiger over for dinner at the U.S. Open. The Spaniard responded, “We will have him round every night. We will serve fried chicken.”

Ugh. No. Just no. That comment will no doubt haunt Sergio for the rest of his career. 

He released a statement apologizing after he left the gala, and then Tiger tweeted the following on Wednesday morning:

 

 

 

Sergio appeared in a televised press conference from Wentworth to apologize to the world shortly afterward.

“I want to apologize to Tiger and anybody that I could have offended,” Garcia said. “I feel sick about it. I’m truly, truly sorry. And I hope we can kind of settle things down and hopefully move on.”

I’m pretty sure it’s going to take a while to move on from this one, unfortunately. Fuzzy Zoeller made a fried chicken reference at the 1997 Masters and that didn’t turn out so well for his career/reputation. Speaking of Fuzzy, Sergio said he was 17 when that happened and wasn’t aware of that incident — which is a bit hard to believe, but it’s possible because I think it was a much bigger deal in the U.S. than in Spain.

(To clarify for those outside the U.S. who may not understand the racial connotations of “fried chicken”: It’s offensive because it is/was used in a derogatory manner by white people dating back to the days of slavery.)

Sergio also said he was caught off-guard and trying to add some comic relief, but it just took a terrible turn in the wrong direction.

“It wasn’t meant that way,” Garcia said. “I was caught off guard. What seemed to be a funny question and I tried to give a funny answer. It came out totally wrong. I want to make sure everybody knows I’m very, very sorry. I can’t apologize enough times.

“As soon as I left the dinner, I started getting a sick feeling in my body. I didn’t really sleep at all. I felt like my heart was going to come out of my body. I’ve had this sick feeling all day. Difficult to hit a shot all day.”

I have no doubt Sergio feels awful and sick. I do believe him because he is a genuine and sensitive person, who undoubtedly screwed up big time.

Do I think he’s a racist? No, not necessarily. I’m not giving him an excuse here because it is inexcusable. I’m just saying clearly Sergio is not very bright and he was at a light-hearted event where they were joking around all night, but then in an attempt to be funny with an edge, while also slightly mean, he came up with a hateful and utterly inappropriate remark.

That said, if he wasn’t racist, why did he choose to take that route? I think it’s partly a cultural discrepancy, but that’s not an excuse. I was mulling over it last night and realized that I’m 100% certain if I was drunk and hanging out with my friends or any other circumstances, those words would never come out of my mouth.

Well, Sergio will certainly pay the heavy price for this mistake that will cost him more than a few penalty strokes and/or trophies.

Garcia said he’d spoken with the commissioners of both the PGA Tour and European Tour and they accepted his apology and there would be no suspension or fine. Which has raised some eyebrows and resulted in people cursing and throwing things because others that have made comparable racially-slurred comments in the golf world and sports have received harsher penalties.

Golf Channel’s Kelly Tilghman was suspended in 2008 for saying that young players who wanted to challenge Woods should “lynch him in a back alley.” Tilghman and Woods are pretty close friends, especially when it comes to Tiger and the media, so she was able to recover professionally and personally from the mistake.

At another awards gala in 2011, Tiger’s former caddie Steve Williams committed a similar error to Garcia, saying it was his aim to “shove it up (Tiger’s) black arse.”

Now how much will this haunt Sergio going forward? Well, I wouldn’t expect a warm reception for him at Merion for the U.S. Open in a few weeks. It could be financially costly if the backlash is so great that his sponsors are forced to cut their ties with him. Garcia has been a longtime ambassador for TaylorMade-adidas.

The golf club manufacturer issued the following statement on Wednesday morning:

Sergio Garcia’s recent comment was offensive and in no way aligns with TaylorMade-adidas Golf’s values and corporate culture. We have spoken with Sergio directly and he clearly has regret for his statement and we believe he is sincere. We discussed with Sergio that his comments are clearly out of bounds and we are continuing to review the matter.

Meanwhile, I think it’s safe to say that the Tiger-Sergio feud is over and Tiger wins with a KO. While Sergio said on Monday that he had no plans to reach out to Tiger to sort things out, he obviously has changed his tune here and said he has tried to contact Tiger via his manager.