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Sport Opinion: Jack Nicklaus' support of President Donald Trump disappointing but not surprising

15:10  30 october  2020
15:10  30 october  2020 Source:   golfweek.com

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At first blush, Jack Nicklaus’ full-throated Twitter endorsement of Donald Trump Wednesday night was not the least bit surprising. The headlines write themselves: Golf course developer endorses another golf course developer. Rich old white man from a rich old white guy sport endorses another rich old white man from the sport.

Jack Nicklaus standing in front of a crowd: Honorary starter Jack Nicklaus hits his ceremonial tee shot on the 1st hole during the first round of The Masters at Augusta National Golf Club © Provided by Golfweek Honorary starter Jack Nicklaus hits his ceremonial tee shot on the 1st hole during the first round of The Masters at Augusta National Golf Club

The reaction wasn’t surprising either. While plenty of Twitter accounts supported Nicklaus’ fawning treatise on Trump, many others did not. There was outrage. There was anger. And, worst of all for Nicklaus, there was genuine shock that a beloved role model could let down so many who had rooted for him for decades.

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To see the replies, not from trolls and bots, but from real people expressing their dismay that Nicklaus would be such an over-the-top Trump supporter, leads one to wonder if Nicklaus perhaps never heard the words of Michael Jordan, who famously explained why he stayed out of politics by saying, “Republicans buy sneakers, too.”

Don’t Democrats play golf, too? And never-Trump Republicans? And independents? And women and girls?

Nicklaus is known in golf as its greatest player, a wonderful ambassador and perhaps its savviest businessperson. So for him to let his adoration for the controversial and unpopular Trump flow from one hefty paragraph to the next is a news item worthy of scrutiny just a few days before the completion of the 2020 Presidential election.

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“In my opinion,” Nicklaus said, “(Trump) has been more diverse than any President I have seen and has tried to help people from all walks of life – equally.”

One could write a half dozen columns refuting that sentence alone, but let’s try to figure out why Nicklaus would say such a thing. The best way to put it probably is this: He’s a white male golfer who was born in 1940. He has lived his entire life in a sport that spent decades trying to keep women and Black people and other minorities out of the game, to its great detriment.

Golf’s leaders now are admirably scrambling to find new participants and new consumers in a race against time with their aging white male demographics. That’s why Augusta National Golf Club – the home of the Masters, whose membership discriminated against women until 2012 – started a skills competition for boys and girls in 2013 and a women’s amateur tournament last year.

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Those worthwhile efforts took a hit Wednesday night when the game’s most iconic figure (or second-most iconic to Tiger Woods, take your pick) endorsed a president who has consistently and reprehensibly denigrated women and people of color, who has been accused of sexually assaulting or sexually harassing at least 26 women, who has waged war on Black athletes who speak out about injustice and who has called white nationalists “very fine people,” among many other awful comments.

Why would Nicklaus take such a stance about such a man? He did allow women to join his Muirfield Village Golf Club in Ohio, but he, like almost every top male golfer for generations, has lived life in a bubble so different from the world around it.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd © Provided by Golfweek

Jack Nicklaus plays a shot from the 19th tee during the Payne’s Valley Cup on September 22, 2020 on the Payne’s Valley course at Big Cedar Lodge in Ridgedale, Missouri. (Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

In July 1994, while touring one of his golf courses near Vancouver, Nicklaus was asked by a Vancouver Province reporter about the lack of Black people in golf. Nicklaus, then 54, responded by saying, “Blacks have different muscles that react in different ways,” according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel on Aug. 21, 1994. Nicklaus also said he didn’t “buy” that he and other players could have taken stronger action in helping end discrimination in golf, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

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At the time, Nicklaus did not deny the comments but said they were taken out of context. When asked Thursday afternoon about Nicklaus’ 1994 remarks, Scott Tolley, Nicklaus’ manager and executive vice president of the Nicklaus family office, declined comment and said Nicklaus was unavailable.

The great Jack Nicklaus should find some time to make himself available for comment sooner rather than later. He has endorsed a racist, sexist man to be re-elected president of the United States. His sport, and his country, deserve to be able to ask him why.

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