Are people right to be angry with Rory McIlroy?

Is playing golf with Donald Trump a political decision? This is the question you have to ask when assessing the backlash Rory has received on Twitter. 

Teeing it up with the president is an honour that many wouldn’t turn down, especially an American. There’s an implicit respect for the office that an invitation such as this would demonstrate; it’s not about personal politics. In Europe this is different. We take pleasure in deriding the position of our leaders, and pay little respect to the office they occupy. An American can extricate themselves from personal politics out of deference for the president, Europeans would view this as inherently political–Trump’s informal charisma would be a complete irrelevance. This explains why Rory’s fans back home are outraged.

The problem for Rory is that he is not an American, he’s a Northern Irishman who has always adopted the rational position of neutrality. Since representing the all-encompassing Irish Golf Union as a junior, Rory has wisely avoided the nationalism question. This set the tone for Rory’s career, and excused his apathy during the Olympics. It was a lose lose situation for Rory to go to Rio, and the Zika virus provided the perfect excuse. The media were rightfully forgiving; it’s hard to criticise an athlete for avoiding the distraction of politics, especially the type found in Northern Ireland.

“Having just won three out of my last four tournaments, including a second Major Championship, I was hoping that my success on the golf course would be the more popular topic of golfing conversation today,” he wrote in his letter. “However the issue of my cultural identity has reemerged and with it the matter of my national allegiance ahead of the Rio Olympics.”

Rory McIlroy

With this in mind, try to understand why people back home can’t see past this hypocrisy.


Golf columnist Lawrence Donegan was especially vocal in a radio segment that day:

“The problem is that Rory is a beloved figure, probably the most beloved figure in his sport…” “He is apparently appealing to a younger audience, he is very vocal about appealing to a younger audience. It basically reinforces old stereotypes…” “I literally can’t believe that McIlroy has done this,”

Many will feel that libtards should back off and leave it, but I find it hard not to question a few curious happenings. For example, the disappearance of Rory’s once conversational approach to politics: “Can we have mulligan for 2016” was his twitter response to the presidential race and Brexit that has since been deleted.

By choosing to play with Trump Rory has inadvertently politicised himself–as far as Europeans are concerned–and here emanates the criticism. I doubt anyone would have batted an eyelid if he played with Barack Obama the day after a deadly airstrike, and that tells you a lot about the media. The point is he never did. And now he has.

“I thought I knew what politics were until I started to watch some of these presidential debates,” he said. “I’m not saying that the political system in Northern Ireland is too strong at the moment either, but it’s shocking.”

His once trivial approach to politics suddenly became serious. And I know this was an accident.


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