Ted Bishop joined Golf Channel’s Gary Williams on Morning Drive on Tuesday in his first television interview since making his insensitive gender-based remarks last week on two of his social media outlets, and thus, resulting in his swift removal as president of the PGA of America.
In his Twitter and Facebook posts, Bishop was attempting to defend Ryder Cup captains Tom Watson and Nick Faldo in response to excerpts from Ian Poulter’s new book, “No Limits,” where the outspoken Englishmen (God forbid!) criticized two of the legends in the game. The former PGA president listed Watson and Faldo’s major wins, along with their Ryder Cup records, and then he called Poulter a “Lil Girl” on Twitter and expanded on those thoughts on Facebook, writing, “Sounds like a little girl squealing during recess.”
In the interview with Golf Channel, Bishop explained the background behind his postings and expressed regret over the ensuing consequences.
“I was in the lobby of the Greenbrier waiting to go up to Nick’s to have dinner and meet with some kids that were part of the Faldo Series later that night,” said Bishop.
“You know, I had read some of the comments that Ian Poulter had made about Nick, and had also made about Tom Watson.
“I guess there had been a lot of emotions that had been building up in me since the Ryder Cup. This is absolutely no excuse. I’ve got to know my position as the president of the PGA of America. I can’t be a fan of golf, I can’t be Ted Bishop and have personal opinions on this subject. But obviously that’s what happened.
“You know, I really regret, like you can’t imagine, what I did, what I said, particularly the implications that came out of it.
“But, you know, I’ve asked myself a lot, What would have been a better choice of words than the phrase ‘lil girl?’ If I would have said ‘lil boys’ would this have been different?
“I think what I was really trying to say is, Why don’t we all just grow up. I think I’m old school from the standpoint that I think the icons of the game should be treated with a certain amount of reverence. I felt like that didn’t necessarily happen with Tom after the Ryder Cup, it wasn’t happening with Nick then. I’d had a great week with Nick Faldo and saw a side of him as a person.
“I overreacted emotionally and I’m embarrassed and I apologize.”
In regard to whether it would have made a difference if he used a “better choice of words,” the answer is a resounding yes, but had he omitted the sexist part of the rant, his remarks still would have been inappropriate and unprofessional. It was trivial to call out Poulter, who is entitled to his own opinions. Ironically, he was calling Poulter a child, while he was the one acting as such.
There was no reason for Bishop to insert himself into that conversation. He’s supposed to be a leader, an executive, the chief of a major organization. Clearly, he wasn’t over the backlash of Watson’s (failed) captaincy, and after spending a couple of days with Faldo at Greenbrier, he felt like they were BFFs and needed to defend his honor for whatever reason. Bishop, who was obviously still emotional over the fallout from the Ryder Cup, should have handled himself better. He had been defeated — take it like an adult who holds the highest office of a major golf organization that represents 27,000 PGA club professionals. (This is also an organization with a history of exclusion — African-Americans weren’t allowed to become members until 1958 and women were only allowed in 1977.)
Bishop also laments the good that he felt he had done for women in the game has now been “flushed down the toilet.”
“The remorse I feel is because it potentially wipes out a lot of really good work that I’ve done over my career with women,” he said. “It’s painful because it’s taken a lot of things that I’ve done and put them down the drain.”
Bishop also provided an explanation of the three reasons interim president Derek Sprague gave him for his removal: 1) Negative media feedback; 2) Potential damage with sponsors; and 3) Outpouring of negative responses from PGA members.
He added that he didn’t feel like the punishment fit the crime.
“I think I should have been banned from social media,” said Bishop, which he self-inflicted on himself after last Thursday. “I think I could have done some PSAs for the PGA of America that would have helped educate people on the correct usage of social media, and then I think I could have been a very outspoken advocate, again, for women’s rights in the game.”
Sprague explained to Bishop that he would be deprived of the privileges bestowed upon past presidents, but he would still retain the ones that come along with being a PGA member. (This Golfweek article explains the situation in detail.)
Given the Board of Directors’ swift removal of Bishop and the severe consequences, it feels like there’s more to the story than we know. Bishop had a history of speaking brazenly and only those behind the scenes know the true nature of why things went down the way they did, but it makes me think that this was the last straw following a series of acts that were unbecoming to the office of the presidency over the course of the past two years.
However, perhaps it was simply a strong statement from the PGA, an organization that doesn’t historically have the best record of inclusion that’s part of an industry known for its history of exclusion.
Here’s the full transcript of the Golf Channel interview:
GARY WILLIAMS: When you posted on Twitter and on Facebook, when did you start to feel regret? Was it after you had heard from people suggesting that these were sexist comments or did you know it almost immediately?
TED BISHOP: No, I’d have to say it was probably an hour and a half later. I looked at my phone and I saw some of the reaction from what I had said. Somebody had labeled me as a sexist. I knew immediately that I had a huge problem.
I took the post down, got a call a few minutes later from Julius Mason, our communications director at the PGA of America. He said, ‘So you and Ian are just having a good back and forth on this?’
I said, ‘Well, that was kind of the intent.’ But I said, ‘It’s not being taken that way, Julius. I want you to know I’ve taken the post down immediately and I think we’ve got a serious situation on our hands.’
At that point he said, ‘Well, you know, we’ve been contacted by The Golf Channel. They’re going to talk about this tomorrow on Morning Drive. They’d like if you come on. We think it will be better if you don’t do any interviews. We’ll release a statement. We don’t think it’s that big of a deal at this point. Let’s go underground, be silent for 24 hours, let’s see what happens.’
Went back into the dining room. Was with LeslieAnne Wade, who used to be a public relations person with CBS Sports. She said, ‘You know, Ted, there’s going to be implications here that are going to cause you to need to give an apology.’
I said, ‘Yeah, I get that.’ I said, ‘The PGA’s working on a statement. Hopefully that’s going to happen tonight.’
So when the statement came out about 8:45 for my approval, it was not in my words and it wasn’t apologetic in any way, shape or form, but it kind of fit the tone of the conversation we had had an hour and a half ago that maybe really this wasn’t that big a deal.
But I did say to my wife Cindy, I said, ‘You know, I wish these were in my own words and I wish there were more of an apologetic tone.’
But, you know, I went to bed, didn’t sleep much. A lot of activity on my phone. Got up the next morning. Had a text from Dottie Pepper, somebody that I’ve become good friends with and who I respect greatly. She said, ‘From one friend to another who has been through something like this, you need to get out in front of this with an apology.’
GARY WILLIAMS. Ted, let me ask you this, before we get back to the timeline. Philosophically, do you think it’s the right place for the leader of one of the largest sports organizations in America to be participating in this type of social media, with or without gender-sensitive comments?
TED BISHOP: You know, I don’t think it is. I mean, that’s one thing that I regret. I think I used poor judgment in doing that. You know, I think I abused my platform. I had lived on the edge for two years, Gary, with a lot of quotes.
GARY WILLIAMS. You mentioned Julius Mason, the staffers at the PGA of America. Had they ever at any point said, ‘You’re walking the line, you crossed the line, back up, filter everything through us?’ Had you ever had that conversation?
TED BISHOP: Never had a conversation about being filtered. You know, the PGA was great about giving me the flexibility and the freedom to pretty much say what I wanted to say.
You know, there were I’d say no question in my time as two years as president where I said some pretty controversial things, but I never felt like I crossed the line. Unfortunately this time, you know, I crossed the line and I paid a huge price for it.
GARY WILLIAMS. You’re a volunteer as an officer, but you’re the president. You appeal to the staff. You get media training. Did you ever think to yourself, I have to take it upon myself, if they’re not going to issue an apology, I have to show contrition and do it on my own? Did you think about it on that Thursday evening?
TED BISHOP: You know what, on Thursday night I was just really trying to follow the direction that the PGA of America was giving me, because that’s what I’d done for two years, and they had never been wrong. They had always had my back and had given me good advice.
You know, I thought, ‘Well, you know, maybe this isn’t going to be that big of a deal. Then it became apparent to me on Friday, you know, when I tried to reach out to the PGA, and I really tried to get on top of this apology beginning at 7:30 in the morning, and I wasn’t really getting any correspondence back from the PGA of America, it became apparent as the morning unfolded that maybe there was something else going on, and that I wasn’t going to have this opportunity to do that through the PGA.
If I had one thing to do over again, it would have been to have called Geoff Russell at 8:30 on Friday morning.
GARY WILLIAMS. Our editorial director here at the Golf Channel.
TED BISHOP: Yeah. And said, Hey, Geoff, I need to speak on this. I need to issue the appropriate apology, which is needed. You know, I screwed up. I need to do this. You know, it certainly would have been heartfelt.
GARY WILLIAMS. One last thing about Thursday night. You did respond to Doug Ferguson of the Associated Press, and the language in that statement with respect to what you said, did you do that by yourself? Were you acting alone? Had no counsel whatsoever from the PGA of America on that, correct?
TED BISHOP: Correct. That is correct. I received that email from Doug about 6:15. I hadn’t responded to it, didn’t respond to it on purpose, until I had seen how the PGA of America had responded in their statement.
What I tried to do was 30 minutes after Julius had sent me the email on what my statement was going to look like, I tried to answer Doug in a way that was consistent with how the PGA of America had issued their statement.
You know, I think I used the terminology ‘I certainly could have used different words.’ And that’s why I did. I mean, I’ve had enough media training that I was trying to be, you know, consistent there. But it was a huge mistake. I should have just apologized right from the get-go.
GARY WILLIAMS. You knew this was going in a bad direction. Did you get the sense from the people you have to appeal to, who are the staffers at the PGA of America, that they felt the same way as you tried to go to bed on that Thursday evening?
TED BISHOP: No, I didn’t get that indication. In fact, I had gotten an email from Pete Bevacqua on Thursday night that said, Hey, sounds like Julius has this thing under control. So, you know, I kind of thought, Okay, there we go.
GARY WILLIAMS. So Friday morning, you’re going to go back to Indiana. So you’re going to travel. With respect to the communication you had with the PGA of America on getting an apology out, what was the next step, what happened?
TED BISHOP: Well, as I said, I talked to Dottie Pepper. I mean, I said to Dottie, ‘Obviously this is a sensitive subject.’ I said, ‘When I issue my apology, I want to make sure I do it in the right way. I don’t want to misuse words again. I’m at this point in time a little paranoid about the use of words.’ I said, ‘Would you help me craft a statement that says, you know, how I feel, number one how I feel, and I want to emphasize that.’ I felt remorse. I mean, this is not an apology just because it’s the right thing to do. I mean, I’m feeling terrible because of all the things I felt like I’ve done in my career to help women, be an advocate for women, to girls that are obviously in the business.
So Dottie did that. She sent me a text with what she thought my response should be. I sent Julius that text at 7:47 a.m. on Friday and I said, ‘This is what Dottie thinks that would be a good, you know, way to go on this thing.’
You know, 15, 20 minutes go by. I got another correspondence from Ambry, my youngest daughter, saying, ‘Dad, this is getting really bad.’
I said to Julius, ‘The longer we wait, the worse this thing gets.’
You know, a few minutes later I texted him and I said, ‘Could I have Ian Poulter’s cell phone number? I need to call Ian and apologize to him personally.’
Unfortunately, I never heard anything from anybody at the PGA of America.
GARY WILLIAMS. When you got on your plane, did you feel you were in peril with respect to losing your job? When you landed back in the state of Indiana, were you in fear that you may be losing your job?
TED BISHOP: Yeah, I really did. I mean, I think you get to the point a couple hours when you’re into it and you’re getting no communication from anybody, that you know you’re in trouble.
I said to Cindy before we got on the plane, I said, ‘You know, I think this is headed in a really bad direction for me.’ I said, ‘I wouldn’t be surprised if they asked me to resign at this point. Because the silence was deafening.’
Then when I landed, I had gotten a text at some point I guess when I was in the air from Derek Sprague, our vice president, saying, ‘Ted, this is a serious situation, we need to have a conference call.’ At that point in time I pretty much knew my fate was sealed.
GARY WILLIAMS. When you say ‘conference call,’ did you know it would be a convening of the board of directors with respect to what they would do regarding basically the culmination of your tenure as president? Was it clear that’s what that conference call was going to be about?
TED BISHOP: No, it wasn’t that. It was a conference call that was with myself and the other two officers and Bevacqua and Kerry Haigh and Darrell Crall, which would be consistent with how that might have been handled at that point in time.
GARY WILLIAMS. When you see that Twitter quote, is it painful to see those words?
TED BISHOP: Yeah, well it’s just painful from the standpoint of demonstrating how stupid I was to have done what I did. And I think that probably more painful than that, Gary, is the remorse I feel because I think that it potentially wipes out a lot of really good work that I’ve done over my career with women.
You know, it’s kind of funny. A couple of weeks ago, you know, here on Golf Channel, Monday night they did a special with the PGA Junior League. In that special there was a segment that contained some footage with me and three of the little girls that were actually on the 24-member PGA Junior League team that I coached at The Legends. Eva Bunker (phonetic) was six years old, Macy Bullington (phonetic) seven years old, Alexis Ferguson (phonetic) was 11 years old. You know, I had a fantastic relationship with these kids, just like I did with my two little girls.
You know, I was an advocate for equal rights for women with the R&A during my term. We had two beautiful experiences with the PGA TOUR Wives Association at our Championships. You know, I felt like I was right there with Pete Bevacqua in terms with of the PGA, LPGA Championship that we’re doing with KPMG next year and how great that was of a statement by the PGA of America for everything that we’re doing for women.
So it’s painful because it’s taken a lot of things that I’ve done and put them down the drain.
GARY WILLIAMS. Well, the worry I know on your part, and those who still support you, and you have said you have gotten a number of text messages, phone calls. Impeachment versus resignation, what that would mean from an historical perspective, maybe it’s semantics, why did you choose not to resign?
TED BISHOP: Well, I think, first of all, I hadn’t had a chance to talk to our board of directors. I think part of the tragic part of the way this whole thing went down, you know, early on Friday morning maybe when I was thinking, hoping that the PGA of America was going to help me craft an apology or put me in a position where I could, you know, publicly apologize in person, I think quite to the contrary, you know, the impeachment proceedings had begun already.
I get that. I mean, PGA of America at that point has got — you know, they’ve got to worry about themselves, and I created this mess.
But, you know, I wanted to have the opportunity to talk to our board. I wanted to at least be able to apologize to the board in person. I wanted the board to know that I had been willing since early in the morning to issue a very sincere public apology on the matter. You know, I felt it was important for me to do that.
I hadn’t had the opportunity, you know, at that point in time to do that. You know, I at least wanted to do that. It wasn’t a matter of going down swinging or me being obstinate or me being resistant. I just felt if we were going to go through the due process, we needed to.
When the board voted, the PGA came back to me and said, ‘We’re going to give you the opportunity to resign.’
You know, I said, ‘I don’t think that’s the right thing to do.’ We went through the due process. People should know that. It’s public record at this point.
GARY WILIAMS. The impeachment itself, what was your understanding of the language of what you were being impeached for?
TED BISHOP: You know, that’s a great question. I asked that. When we had that 1:30 conference call, and I was asked to resign, I said, ‘Can you tell me what grounds you’re requesting my resignation on?’ I said, ‘Is it because I used poor judgment, I said things about Ian Poulter that I shouldn’t have said, or are you asking me to resign because you think there are sexist implications in the use of my word ‘lil girl’’? I said, ‘If that’s the case, guys, my record stands I feel like on itself for women’s rights,’ and I said, ‘I would hope that’s not the case.’
I was told by Derek there were three main reasons that they felt I should resign. Number one, they’ve had a lot of negative feedback from the media as it relates to what I had said. Secondly, there was potential damage to sponsorship relationships. And thirdly, they’d had an outpouring of negative responses from PGA members.
It’s kind of interesting. Yesterday when, you know, somebody forwarded me the bullet points that the PGA of America had sent to all the section leaders and the executive directors, when it was stated as to, you know, why I’d been asked to resign, it was because I had committed a code of ethics violation.
GARY WILLIAMS: You were on the board of control for six years. In your mind, did you violate the code of ethics in the bylaws of the PGA of America?
TED BISHOP: I don’t deem this to be a code of ethics violation in my mind. Obviously other people didn’t look at it that way. No, I don’t.
GARY WILLIAMS: When you issued your statement after the impeachment, you said that you would not be recognized as a past president. You said basically you would be expunged from the record books. The PGA of America has since come back and said that is not the case. What is clarity on where you will stand going forward historically as a past president?
TED BISHOP: Yeah, the statement that I released, and I’ll read this line, my statement said, The PGA has also informed me I will not become the honorary president nor will I ever be recognized as a past president in our association’s history.
I never said my record was going to be expunged. I never said the PGA said I wouldn’t be recognized as the 38th president of the PGA of America.
What I was told twice on Friday when I asked what my status would be with the PGA going forward, they said, ‘You will have no status. You will not be the honorary president. You will never be recognized as a past president in our association, and you will only be a PGA member.’
GARY WILLIAMS: Who told you that?
TED BISHOP: Derek Sprague told me that twice.
GARY WILLIAMS: Twice. Was that via text, via phone, email?
TED BISHOP: That was via phone. And, you know, yesterday, I actually reached out to Christine Garrity, the chief legal counsel of the PGA of America, because I wanted to be able to clarify this point, although it’s a semantical point at this point.
I asked Christine if there was a recorded version of the conference call that took place between the officers and the chiefs on Friday at 1:30 or if there had been a stenographer in the room who had taken the text down of what was said because I was very confident that my words and my statement were what they were. I was told there had been no recorded record of that meeting.
GARY WILLIAMS: The comments about Ian Poulter, this is somebody from what I understand from Ian, he met you one time at the PGA of America merchandise show. You got very upset and you issued not one by two biting comments in criticism of him with respect to Nick Faldo. If you go back to the Ryder Cup, the press conference where your captain that you hand selected was undermined and was questioned by the most decorated member of that team, what really was your reaction that Sunday night, if you would get that upset with Ian Poulter, what was your reaction of Phil?
TED BISHOP: My reaction to Phil’s comments on Sunday night were I was not surprised. And I was not surprised because I had a similar conversation with Phil when we played at the Scottish Open in July. It was a soliloquy on what he had told me in July. I will give Phil credit for that. I mean the message was totally consistent.
And the only issue that I had with what Phil said was the timing of when he said it and the venue and the medium that he made the remarks in. And I’ve told him this. I thought those things should have been said behind closed doors to Tom or PGA of America officials.
But, you know, that’s history. That’s over with.
GARY WILLIAMS: You have daughters who are in the game of golf, one that helps manage the facility that you run in the state of Indiana, another who also is a college golf coach, who works at a fine facility in the state of New York. You also have grandchildren. Have you learned anything from your grandchildren, understanding what their grandfather has been through?
TED BISHOP: Well, you know, I have. I’ve learned a lot of things. You know, I hadn’t seen my grandson Reid until I went to a birthday party Sunday night for my granddaughter Remi (phonetic) at my daughter’s house. Kind of a quiet moment. Reid came up to me and he said, I know you lost your job.
I said, Yeah, I did. I said, Do you know why I lost it?
He said, Because you called Ian Poulter a lil girl.
I said, That’s exactly right.
He said, What would have happened if I called him something else?
I said, That’s not the issue here, Reid. The issue is I overstepped my bounds. I shouldn’t have said anything.
I think, Gary, again, I can’t emphasize enough how sorry I am for what I did, how stupid it was on my part, given the media training that I’ve had, given the opportunities to speak and know my position in the game. The PGA of America afforded me a tremendous amount of freedom.
I think the thing that is toughest for me is I have, you know, two guys that are really good friends in Pete Bevacqua and Derek Sprague. I mean, we did a lot of great things for the PGA of America. There’s not a day that goes by probably that I don’t talk to those two guys. And knowing that when I got up Saturday, those relationships, they were over with. You know, I’ll probably never talk to those guys again the rest of my life. I’ll probably never see them again the rest of my life. I’ll never have an opportunity to be a past president and take my grandkids to the PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup.
But you know what? I created that situation. I created this mess. It’s my fault. It’s not the PGA of America’s fault, it’s my fault. And people have said, How do you think you should have been punished? And I have to be honest with you. I don’t think the punishment fits the crime. But it is what it is and I have to accept that.
And I’m not bitter about that in any way, shape or form. But I think I should have been banned from social media, which I have banned myself since Thursday night.
GARY WILLIAMS. Are you off social media for good?
TED BISHOP: I’m off. I’m off. I’m done. But I think I should have been banned from social media. I think I could have done some PSAs for the PGA of America that would have helped educate people on the correct usage of social media, and then I think I could have been a very outspoken advocate, again, for women’s rights in the game.
You know, I told Geoff when I got here this morning, I’ve been involved in PGA governance for 25 years, but I’ve been involved for all 38 years of my career in trying to do things for women in golf.
And I think when I wake up at 2:30, 3:00 in the morning, and I can’t sleep, it’s because I look at the things that I feel like I’ve done in my career, for my girls, for women from day one, and I think these things, they’re flushed down the toilet. That’s going to be my legacy. That’s it. That’s the situation I created for myself.
GARY WILLIAMS: Well, we greatly appreciate you coming in here this morning.
TED BISHOP: Thank you.