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Justin Thomas said Wednesday that he was “upset” but respected Ralph Lauren’s decision to drop him as a brand ambassador after Thomas used a homophobic slur at the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
“They had to do what they had to do,” Thomas told reporters Wednesday at the European Tour’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. “They are a huge global brand, and I have to respect their decision. I wasn’t disappointed, because I put them in a terrible position. I just was more upset. I had a great relationship with a lot of people there, and like I said, we would have had the opportunity to do it together. I totally respect their decision and move on from it.”
Thomas said that he intended to go through a “training program” but didn’t offer any details, saying that he wanted to keep it a “personal level.”
“Obviously people are going to be a part of that process,” he 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.”
Thomas said he’s been in contact with his other sponsors (Titleist, FootJoy and Citi bank are among those listed on his website) and that “they understand this is an opportunity for me to educate myself, grow, become a better person, and just like they hope, I know that I’ll become a better man and a better person because of it, and they are going to kind of help me along that process.”
Thomas muttered the homophobic slur under his breath after missing a short putt during the third round at Kapalua. He apologized after the round, and then again after the final round, saying that he “clearly screwed up” and made a “terrible, terrible judgment call.” A few days later, Ralph Lauren announced that it was ending its relationship with Thomas, saying that his language was “inconsistent with our values.”
“I’m clearly not proud of what I said. It’s humiliating. It’s embarrassing. It’s not me. It’s not a word that I use, but for some reason, it was in there,” Thomas said. “And that’s what I’m trying to figure out, as to why it was in there. It’s going to be a part of this process and training program or whatever I need to do, not only to prove to myself but prove to my sponsors and prove to these people that don’t know who I am that is indeed not the person I am.”
Rory McIlroy, one of Thomas’ closest friends on the PGA Tour, said that Thomas has “responded really, really well” over the past few weeks.
“I think he realized he made a big mistake as soon as it was brought to him last week in Hawaii, and he completely owned up to it,” McIlroy said. “He said he messed up; he’s going to try to be better. Justin is true to his word. He will be.
“I’ve gotten to know Justin really well, and he is as good a guy as they come. He’s got a lot of integrity, a lot of character. Obviously, it doesn’t make what he said any better, but I think in this day and age, it’s hard because it seems like you’re not allowed to make a mistake anymore. Any mistake gets jumped on.
“Look, he made a mistake. He owned up to it, and he’ll be better because of it. He’ll maybe not be as ignorant to things that offend people, I guess. Obviously, what he said was offensive to a large portion of the population, but he’ll be better for it. He’ll learn and he’ll move on, and he’ll be just as good a golfer as he’s always been, and it will probably just make him a better person than he already is, which is hard because he’s already a great guy.”