The third-ranked golfer in the world Justin Thomas is facing a PR crisis after a hot mic caught him using a gay slur. Thomas apologized for using what he described as “inexcusable” language, but apparently that display of contrition wasn’t enough to save his relationship with Ralph Lauren as the popular clothing brand announced Friday it will no longer endorse the former FedEx Cup champion. Ralph Lauren began sponsoring Thomas in 2013, the year he debuted on the PGA Tour.
“We are disheartened by Mr. Thomas’s recent language, which is entirely inconsistent with our values,” the company expressed in a statement released Friday. “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.”
Thomas’ slur was picked up by an NBC microphone during the third round of last week’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Maui. The 27-year-old was apparently unhappy after his putt on the Par-4 fourth hole went awry. Thomas ultimately finished third, one stroke behind tournament champ Harris English, who defeated Joaquin Niemann in a one-hole playoff.
“I'm an adult. I'm a grown man, there's absolutely no reason for me to say anything like that. It's terrible,” said Thomas via Daniel Rapoport of Golf World. “I'm extremely embarrassed. It's not who I am, it's not the kind of person that I am.”
Thomas, who still maintains sponsorships with Titleist, FootJoy, NetJets, Citigroup and Beats Electronics, among other endorsers, will return to the links at next week’s HSBC Championship in Abu Dhabi.