Golfer Justin Thomas has vowed to undergo training to “become a better person” after using a homophobic slur during a tournament.
Thomas, 27, angrily muttered under his breath the barb “faggot” live on air at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii on 9 January.
Backlash quickly brewed, with a flash point arriving when Ralph Lauren – which Thomas has worn since he turned pro – terminated its sponsorship with the golfer.
Scrambling to keep secure his other sponsors, such as golf brand Titleist and investment bank Citi, Thomas told the Associated Press on Wednesday (20 January) that he plans to educate himself and “become a better person”.
He will do so by privately pursuing a training program on a journey towards LGBT+ acceptance that he plans to keep at a “personal level”.
Justin Thomas says faggot ‘is not a word I use’, after using it live on air.
“Obviously people are going to be a part of that process,” Justin Thomas said, “but what I’m doing I’d like to keep internally and just go through the appropriate steps to get where I need to be and want to be so people understand that’s not the person I am, the character I like to portray.”
“It’s not a word I use,” Thomas continued, “but for some reason, it was in there and that’s what I’m trying to figure out — why it was in there.
“And like I said, it’s going to be part of this process and training program, whatever I need to do, not only to prove to myself but to prove to my sponsors and prove to the people who don’t know who I am that that is indeed not the person I am.”
Ralph Lauren had expressed its “disappointment” in Thomas’ utterance of the slur, noting in a statement that it is “entirely inconsistent with our values”.
“While we acknowledge that he has apologised and recognises 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,” it continued.
Thomas added that he has since spoken to the brand’s bosses and as much as he apologised profusely, they weren’t keen to welcome him back. “They just felt like they needed to move on so that’s exactly what I’m doing as well,” he said.
“I wasn’t disappointed because I put them in a terrible position. I was just more upset.
“I had a great relationship with a lot of people there and like I said we had the opportunity to do it all together.”
Rory McIlroy, who will compete against Thomas at the Abu Dhabi Championship, also weighed in.
“He maybe won’t be as ignorant to offend people — obviously what he said was offensive to a large portion of the population,” McIlroy said.
“He’ll be better for it, he’ll learn, he’ll move on and he’ll be just as good a golfer as he’s always been.
“And, if anything, it’ll make him a better person than he already is, which is hard because he is already a great guy.”