First, what happened: On the 10th hole of the WGC-HSBC Champions, Patrick Reed rolled a putt past the hole. In the process of tapping in his third putt on the green he chastised himself saying, fairly audibly, “”Nice f**kin’ three-putt you f**kin’ fa**ot.”
You can see video of the incident here.
Second, what’s happened since: The 3-time PGA Tour winner and 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup Team member was lambasted on Twitter. James Ridyard, a golf performance coach, made the connection that many are likely to make.
If you can be fired & erased from the history books for saying ‘lil girl’ what’s going to happen to Patrick Reed? — James Ridyard (@JamesRidyard) November 6, 2014
Sam Weinman of Golf Digest wrote a pretty vanilla piece about the incident, and the news, which was originally reported by Deadspin, is being syndicated seemingly everywhere.
Reed himself tweeted: “I’m sorry for using offensive language today in China. My passion to play well got the best of me and my word choice was unacceptable.”
And the PGA Tour, for its part, released the following statement about the incident: “The PGA Tour Conduct Unbecoming regulations prohibit the use of obscene language on the golf course. The PGA Tour will deal with this matter internally in accordance with its regulations.”
And as we’ll never know what “dealing with matter internally” actually translated into in terms of a fine, since the Tour doesn’t make that information public, this could be the material end of the matter. Or a media firestorm could ensue, given the post-Donald Sterling climate in the sports world and the recent dismissal of PGA President Ted Bishop for calling Ian Poulter a “lil girl” via Twitter.
Regardless of what happens, here’s the bottom line: No matter of how much you might identify with Patrick Reed blowing up at himself, no matter the streams of unrepeatable vulgarity you may have uttered or heard uttered on the golf course, and no matter what you have personally heard a professional athlete say to him/herself on the field of play, what Patrick Reed said was unacceptable.
Fortunately, as Reed tweeted, he acknowledges that his choice of words (particular the use of a slur used to refer to homosexual men) was entirely unacceptable. Certainly, Reed knows that it doesn’t matter if he was talking to himself — he should not use that word in public discourse. And as a professional golfer competing in front of fans on live television, his every word is for public consumption, like it or not.
Such is the reality of our “cameras-everywhere-incendiary-news-items-go-viral” world. It’s no revolutionary thought that the reality of culture and civilization is that there are certain things people shouldn’t say and shouldn’t want to — but that’s another conversation. Neither is it revolutionary to say that in the present era of sensitivity, political correctness and desire for scapegoats, there’s a pretty clearly defined list of banned terms.
Patrick Reed used one of those terms. I strongly doubt that he is a homophobe, but that doesn’t matter. Nor does the fact that the 24-year-old likely grew up in the same elementary and high school environment as many males in America did, where boys casually threw the taboo word around in much the same spirit as “idiot” or “moron.” As he surely knows, though, the term he used isn’t synonymous with “idiot” or “moron:” It’s a slur, and it’s not acceptable in any context.