Doug Ferguson, AP, September 5, 2008
Under increasing criticism, the LPGA Tour on Friday backed off plans to suspend players who could not efficiently speak English at tournaments.
LPGA Tour commissioner Carolyn Bivens said she would have a revised plan by the end of the year that would not include suspensions for players unable to speak English in pro-ams, trophy presentations or interviews. Fining such players remained an option.
The reversal was quickly hailed by two California lawmakers who challenged the original policy.
State Sen. Leland Yee, a Democrat from San Francisco, had asked the Legislature’s legal office to determine whether the English policy violated state or federal anti-discrimination laws. If it was deemed legal, Yee said he would have pushed for legislation banning such policies in California.
“I’m very pleased that the LPGA saw the wisdom of the concerns that we raised,” Yee said. “It’s a no-brainer for those of us who have been the recipient of these kinds of discriminatory acts.”
State Assemblyman Ted Lieu, a Democrat from the Los Angeles area, said he would target corporate sponsors if the LPGA persisted with its English requirement.
“I’m pleased they have come to their senses,” he said.
Bivens’ announcement came two hours before the Asian Pacific American Legal Center planned a news conference in Los Angeles to demand the LPGA overturn its policy.
“Until they completely retract it, issue an apology to the players and the fans, I think we’ll remain very concerned and interested in what happens,” said Gerald D. Kim, a senior staff attorney for the center. “The LPGA has gone about this totally the wrong way.”
The lawmaker said he will continue with his request to the Legislative Counsel’s Office, as a way to prevent similar policies in the future.
Lieu said the LPGA’s explanation made it seems as though the tour felt it more important to socialize with sponsors than to play golf.
“If you’re a sports fan, you should be outraged,” Lieu said.
[Editor’s Note: See the original story on the LPGA’s English requirement at here.]