Steve Elkington likely faces a fine, suspension, or some other form of punishment from the PGA Tour for the latest in a series of offensive remarks the former PGA champion has tweeted. Tour officials, in keeping with their policy, however, won’t specify what the penalty may be.
Elkington sparked widespread outrage Tuesday when he posted a homophobic comment about Missouri defensive end Michael Sam, who was working out at the NFL Combine, to his then-60,000-plus Twitter followers.
After deleting his tweet (above, via Devil Ball Golf), the 10-time PGA Tour winner fueled the firestorm of indignation with a supposed apology that used language offensive to Asians.
It goes back to "a ball hit an oriental spectator".There's no oriental spectators..There just spectators.."like m Sam...He's just an athlete— Steve Elkington (@elkpga) February 25, 2014
The tour, which polices players on the Champions Tour as well, commented on its no-comment policy regarding punishments for its members.
"Under our regulations, conduct unbecoming a professional includes public commentary that is clearly inappropriate or offensive," according to the tour’s statement. "With respect to this matter, and consistent with our longstanding policy, we do not comment on player disciplinary matters."
Sam, who is projected as a mid-level draft pick, would become the first openly gay NFL player in history and has won nearly universal support for disclosing his sexual orientation after a successful college career and prior to the draft. Elkington, on the other hand, has earned broad condemnation for being a serial racist, sexist, and homophobe.
Elkington lashed out at people from Pakistan via Twitter during last year’s Senior British Open, cracked wise about a tragic helicopter crash in Scotland, and just weeks ago ogled a female golf writer’s anatomy.
His latest incendiary assertions drew unanimous censure Wednesday from the folks on Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive," who called for some sort of sanction for the Australian’s ongoing Twitter twaddle.
"A lot of people might think it’s more forgivable -- and I use the word very loosely -- if it’s a first-time offense and you didn’t understand the magnitude of your statement and you apologized for it," said host Kelly Tilghman, who knows whereof she speaks.
Golf Channel suspended Tilghman for two weeks in 2008 after she made a racially tinged remark involving Tiger Woods. In a joking exchange with analyst Nick Faldo during a tour event, Tilghman said that young golfers competing with Woods should "lynch him in a back alley."
With the instantaneous reactions of social media still a few years away back then, it took about a day for Tilghman’s comments to go viral. She apologized directly to Woods, who said at the time there was no "ill-intent" in her remarks.
The same cannot be said of Elkington, who, at the least, is guilty of buffoonery and seriously bad taste.
"In this situation, we’re dealing with a guy, as you can see by [his tweet jesting about the helicopter accident in Scotland] and also before that, making jokes about people who hail from Pakistan and using them in a very derogatory manner," said Tilghman. "He was reprimanded by the tour for that action, clearly didn’t learn from that action, went on to post the tweet about the Scottish pub, and then later, delivered a personal attack on Twitter to a female reporter who covers the game of golf about her personal appearance, about her physical appearance.
"If you follow him on Twitter," she added, "you’ll see that he has a series of distasteful comments."
Tilghman called for sensitivity training for the 51-year-old Elkington, but the LPGA Tour’s Paige MacKenzie wondered how effective such education would be.
"I’m not naive enough to think that he doesn’t know that what he’s saying is offensive," said MacKenzie, who noted that her tour fines players for behavior unbecoming a professional. "I feel like that’s pretty blatant in how he said it."
NBC/Golf Channel analyst Mark Rolfing, at the fog-delayed Honda Classic pro-am, with Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott, and other top golfers competing, finally got underway at PGA National, was disgusted with the entire situation.
"Whether they fine him or suspend him, they’ve got to get him to stop doing it," said Rolfing. "I don’t like the fact that we are sitting here talking about it. We’ve got all these great stories going on, the Florida Swing start, and we’re talking about Steve Elkington’s tweets. That is utterly ridiculous."
Damon Hack weighed in, contending that the tour "has to take a look at this ... continual behavior of hurtful comments from a golfer" who should look in the mirror to decide "does he want to be known as the 1995 PGA champion or for his tweets."
With Elkington capturing nearly 2,000 additional followers over the last day or so, we’re guessing we know the answer to that.