There are significant problems with any criticism of competitors at the U.S. Women’s Open for not speaking out about President Donald Trump’s alleged sexual assaults, and his boasts about his ability to grope women without their consent.
The first is that before blaming any of the competitors for not speaking up, we must remember that the USGA put them in this position by not moving the tournament away from Donald Trump’s golf course. Recent reports indicating the organization considered a move when Trump announced his candidacy in 2015, and then backed off, certainly don’t help matters.
And when, eight months ago, the entire Access Hollywood affair broke, it became a virtual certainty that women, competing in a professional golf tournament at a Donald Trump-owned course, would be asked about its owner’s high-profile (alleged) bad behavior involving women.
This was all too predictable. If the USGA had any vision, they saw this coming, and either decided they were OK with throwing players in front of reporters eager for incendiary remarks, or they didn’t see it at all. Either possibility is bad.
It’s also worth mentioning the precarious situation the players find themselves in. Like it or not, Trump has a reputation as a supporter of women’s golf events, putting up a million dollar first prize at the ADT Championship at Trump International. And if you think players on the PGA Tour are keen not to ruffle the feathers of conservative fans and similarly conservative sponsors, LPGA players really can’t afford bad press, unhappy fans, or sponsors pulling their dollars.
The tour rests on a knife edge, and while it may have staved off the possibility of folding, the gap between LPGA Tour and PGA Tour purses has the women’s circuit clawing for every dollar. While a large portion of the American population would cheer a condemnation of President Trump’s behavior from a top LPGA player, it’s important to remember how conservative of a fan base the Tour attracts. And while they may want to set an example for young women and issue bold denouncements, they know all too well that young women do not bankroll their tour, old men do.
And let’s not dance around this, LPGA pros know (many) men are pigs. This isn’t to excuse any alleged behavior, but they field inappropriate comments and see gross displays of sexism in every tournament pro-am. If anything, they have a more cynical view of male behavior than the average woman. Maybe they accept it, maybe they don’t, but the unfortunate lesson that little good comes from speaking up about it—save for a moral victory—is hammered home weekly on tour.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning, in conjunction with the above, that the idea that 90-plus percent of LPGA Tour pros have a problem with the U.S. Open being contested at a Trump-owned course is probably a convenient myth. Not a single player is skipping the tournament or suggested she was thinking about it. Heck, we’ve seen quite the opposite from some: Natalie Gulbis is cozying up to the president as she considers a bid for office.
ESPN’s confidential survey had a LPGA pro saying this about any decision not to play at Trump Bedminster:
“Honestly if you’re going to not play because it’s [at Trump’s course], that’s just being petty, because we’re not there to see him, we’re there for the golf course for the tournament. It doesn’t matter who owns it, it never mattered before, so I wouldn’t ever pull out because he’s the owner of the course and I think that would be rare. It’s the U.S. Women’s Open, it’s a major, and it’s on a beautiful golf course.”
These are the avenues we should be traversing this week and the larger issues related to women’s golf we should be discussing, not the fact that Michelle Wie isn’t answering “political” questions or other efforts to evade questions about the president.