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Ralph Lauren drops Justin Thomas after anti-gay slur

January 16th, 2021

Justin Thomas has lost one of his oldest sponsors. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Justin Thomas will no longer have Ralph Lauren as a sponsor after a microphone picked up a muttered anti-gay slur from the golfer after he missed a putt at the Sentry Tournament of champions.

The company announced it was discontinuing its partnership with Thomas, currently ranked third in the world, in a statement released Friday:

At the Ralph Lauren Corporation, we believe in the dignity of all people, regardless of age, race, gender identity, ethnicity, political affiliation or sexual orientation. This is part of our longstanding commitment to foster cultures of belonging – in the workplace and in communities around the world.

We are disheartened by Mr. Thomas’s recent language, which is entirely inconsistent with our values. While we acknowledge that he has apologized and recognizes the severity of his words, he is a paid ambassador of our brand and his actions conflict with the inclusive culture that we strive to uphold.

In reflecting on the responsibility we have to all of our stakeholders, we have decided to discontinue our sponsorship of Mr. Thomas at this time. As we make this decision, our hope is that Mr. Thomas does the hard and necessary work in order to partner with us again – truly examining this incident, learning, growing and ultimately using his platform to promote inclusion.

Thomas’ relationship with Ralph Lauren dates back to when he turned pro in 2013. In 2018, he signed an extension with the company through 2021.

Justin Thomas apologized for slur, admitted it was ‘distraction’

The slur in question occurred during the third round of the Tournament of Champions, when Thomas missed a short par putt on the fourth hole. As he stepped to tap in the ball, Golf Channel microphones picked up Thomas saying the slur under his breath. It can be seen here, with an obvious NSFW warning.

The 27-year-old Thomas said the slur while wearing an RLX polo from Ralph Lauren.

After the round, Thomas publicly apologized:

“It’s inexcusable,” Thomas said. “First off, I just apologize. I mean, there’s no excuse. I’m an adult. I’m a grown man. There’s absolutely no reason for me to say anything like that. It’s terrible.

“I’m extremely embarrassed. It’s not who I am, it’s not the kind of person that I am or anything that I do, but it’s, unfortunately, I did it and I have to own up to it and I’m very apologetic.”

Thomas, the defending champion of the event, eventually finished third in the tournament, one stroke behind Harris English and Joaquin Niemann at 24-under (English defeated Niemann in a playoff). Per the New York Post, Thomas admitted the situation was a “distraction” after the tournament ended, saying “Golf wasn’t the main thing on my mind.”

The PGA Tour has already released a statement calling Thomas’ language “unacceptable,” but it’s unknown if it will levy a fine or other discipline against him. It’s also unclear if any of Thomas’ other sponsors — Titleist, FootJoy, Citi, NetJets, Woodford Reserve, Beats by Dr. Dre, Troon according to his site — are pulling their support as well.

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