Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Racism or Business Decision?

LPGA is one of the most racially diverse organizations in all sports as there are currently 121 international players from 26 countries on the LPGA Tour. 11 of the last 13 tour events have been won by international players and of the top 20 money earners more than half are international players. With all these international players on tour it would seem odd that Tour officials would want to do anything to upset them. None the less this is exactly what they did however.

Earlier in the week the LPGA passed a new policy that will require players to speak English starting in 2009, with players who have been LPGA members for two years facing suspension if they can't pass an oral evaluation of English skills. The rule is effective immediately for new players.

People everywhere are outraged at this decision because they feel that it is racist and unfair to force people to learn a language. I couldn't disagree more. The LPGA is a business whether these players like it or not. The tour is there to make money and is trying to provide a product to sell to everyone. Most of the fans of the LPGA are North Americans who speak English as well as most of the sponsors are American companies. I think it is only right that after a golfer wins an event they can take a microphone and thank the fans for their support and thank their sponsors.

The LPGA has come under heavy fire for their decision and have been forced to try and justify their actions. "Why now? Athletes now have more responsibilities and we want to help their professional development," deputy commissioner Libba Galloway told The Associated Press. "There are more fans, more media and more sponsors. We want to help our athletes as best we can succeed off the golf course as well as on it."

Besides just fans and sponsors there are people to pay top dollar to play in Pro-Ams with these women. Imagine spending $10,000 to play one round of golf with your favorite golfer on the LPGA and not even being able to ask them how it is going? These players have a responsibility to make themselves accessible to the public and if that means learning to speak English than I think its justified.

Some golfers who have won tournaments before can't even give an interview after their round. Imagine if Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson couldn't speak English? The PGA would be ruined because so much of their business comes from sponsors and selling these players as a commodity.

I think what a lot of people are not seeing are the opportunities that learning English will provide to some of these young golfers. If they learn to speak English now than they could get a new sponsor and do TV commercials and gain exposure and earn more money. Its not as if the LPGA is attempting to assimilate them into Western culture they simply want to try and enhance their business.

The players themselves are already starting to get with the program and seem to have accepted the decision without much of an issue. Angela Park, born in Brazil of South Korean heritage and raised in the United States, said the policy is fair and good for the tour and its international players. Seon-Hwa Lee, the only Asian with multiple victories this year, said she works with an English tutor in the winter. Her ability to answer questions without the help of a translator has improved in her short time on tour.

All in all I think that the decision is a fair one and from a business standpoint makes perfect sense. If only everyone would stop being so sensitive and see that in the end sports is a business and needs to put profit ahead of some peoples hurt feelings.


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