Ralph Lauren drops Justin Thomas after gay slur heard on TV

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Justin Thomas watches a shot during the second round of the Tournament of Champions golf event Friday, Jan. 8, 2021, at Kapalua Plantation Course in Kapalua, Hawaii. (Matthew Thayer/The Maui News via AP)

HONOLULU (AP) — Ralph Lauren Corp. said Friday it is ending its sponsorship with Justin Thomas after he was heard muttering a homophobic slur to himself after missing a putt last week in Hawaii.

Justin Thomas waits to hit from the first tee during the final round of the Tournament of Champions golf event, Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021, at Kapalua Plantation Course in Kapalua, Hawaii. (Matthew Thayer/The Maui News via AP)

Thomas has worn the company’s clothing since he turned pro. He has reached No. 1 in the world briefly on two occasions, won a major at age 24 and captured the FedEx Cup in 2017.

In the third round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions, he missed a 5-foot par putt on the fourth hole. He could be heard saying the slur under his breath as he tapped in.

Ralph Lauren said it was “disheartened” by his language.

“We believe in the dignity of all people, regardless of age, race, gender identity, ethnicity, political affiliation or sexual orientation,” Ralph Lauren said in a statement. “In reflecting on the responsibility we have to all of our stakeholders, we have decided to discontinue our sponsorship of Mr. Thomas at this time.”

Thomas was on an overseas vacation and could not immediately be contacted. He is playing in Abu Dhabi next week on the European Tour.

He apologized after this third round, and then again Sunday when he finished one shot out of the playoff.

“It’s inexcusable,” Thomas said. “First off, I just apologize. I’m an adult. I’m a grown man, there’s absolutely no reason for me to say anything like that. It’s terrible. I’m extremely embarrassed. It’s not who I am, it’s not the kind of person that I am or anything that I do. Unfortunately, I did it and I have to own up to it and I’m very apologetic.”

It wound up costing him.

“While we acknowledge that he has apologized and recognizes 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,” the company said in a statement.

Ralph Lauren said it hopes Thomas “does the hard and necessary work in order to partner with us again – truly examining this incident, learning, growing and ultimately using his platform to promote inclusion.”

The Human Rights Campaign, the largest LBGTQ advocacy group in the country, last year designated Ralph Lauren as “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality.”

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