News & Opinion

Titleist blows lid over Scott Piercy’s social-media gaffe

PGA Tour veteran apologizes for his ‘terrible lack of judgment’ after suffering backlash from equipment manufacturer

ORLANDO, Fla. – Every day, we see how the world has changed. Those changes extend to the millionaires on the PGA Tour as much as they do to the average Joe.

Social media has leveled that playing field between the economic disparity that exists today. The difference is that when the average Joe creates an outrageous tweet or Instagram post, he often is dismissed immediately or simply ignored. For a millionaire golfer, the ramifications can be much more severe.

Scott Piercy sports a new cap for the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Thursday after Titleist dropped him because of a social-media post that was regarded as homophobic.

On Monday, Scott Piercy created a meme on his Instagram account that was considered to be homophobic in nature about former Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg dropping out of the race over the weekend.

On Tuesday morning, Piercy posted an apology via Instagram. "Whenever I post my intent is never to offend. I want to apologize if any of my recent story posts have been offensive. I will do better!" he wrote.

In the Arnold Palmer Invitational pro-am at Bay Hill Club and Lodge here Wednesday, Piercy, was wearing a Titleist-logoed hat as part of the terms of his contract with the equipment manufacturer. In Thursday’s first round, Piercy was sporting a black hat with a rose on it, which he said he bought on the Internet. According to Piercy, it was the only hat that he had.

Piercy and Acushnet Co., Titleist’s parent, confirmed that Piercy no longer was under contract, effectively having been dropped by the company.

Acushnet offered no additional comment when questioned by Morning Read. Piercy initially also declined to comment, but he soon called back to speak on the record about what he called “a terrible lack of judgment” regarding his Instagram post.

Piercy, 41, a four-time winner on the PGA Tour who has amassed $20.3 million in career earnings, said he had a great 20-year association with Titleist and understood the equipment manufacturer’s position, which he said was consistent with company policies.

The breakup between Piercy and Titleist might seem like a high cost for a “lack of judgment,” but we live in a different world now.

What Piercy said on Instagram is indefensible, and no level of perceived humor could justify it.

Forget political correctness in its many forms. Common decency mandates that such thoughts should be kept to one’s self. Though Piercy said he hopes the public can forgive him, the damage in this limited circumstance is done.

Piercy’s social-media misstep points to a bigger problem for professional golfers.

Social media is prevalent, which is why players, who often have a lot of time on their hands, participate. But, the medium can turn toxic in a New York minute. Suddenly, a player whom you might idolize could say something stupid and most likely out of character, and then the rout begins with someone whom you have never met.

That was not the case with Piercy.

In 2014, Ted Bishop, the president of the PGA of America, lost his job amid the fallout from an ill-advised tweet in which he called European Ryder Cup star Ian Poulter a “lil girl” in a back-and-forth dispute that played out on Twitter.

It is just one of many examples of social media costing a personality or athlete in the world of public opinion.

After talking with Piercy here, I have no doubt that he feels terribly about the incident and, if he had the chance, would not do it again. But the world moves at lightning speed. Once you push the “send” button, you have no control over what happens.

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