Golf swing coach Hank Haney was recently asked on his Sirius XM radio show about the upcoming U.S. Women’s Open. Haney admitted that he did not follow much women’s golf, nonetheless he felt confident that a Korean named “Lee” would win.
“I couldn’t name you six players on the LPGA tour,” said Haney. “I’d go with ‘Lee’ if I didn’t have to name a first name. I’d get a bunch of them right.”
Immediately, Haney came under attack on Twitter for his comments. He quickly apologized for his “insensitive” comments. But that didn’t stop Sirius XM from suspending him indefinitely.
“He got what he deserved,” said Tiger Woods, reigning Masters champion and former Haney pupil. (As an aside, Woods should know, as he has landed in hot water himself for using the term “spaz” to describe his putting woes at the 2006 Masters.)
Christine Brennan, of USA Today, described Haney’s comments as racist and sexist, insisting that Haney be fired and not allowed to enter any golf club on Earth.
Shockingly, Haney’s prediction came true when a Korean golfer named Jeongeun Lee6 won. The “6” at the end of her name was added by Ms. Lee to help differentiate herself from the other female golfers named “Jeongeun Lee” on the Korean Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tour. When she transitioned to the LPGA in America, she kept the “6” at the end of her name.
As Lee6 cruised to victory at the U.S. Open, Haney wrote on Twitter:
My prediction that a Korean woman would be atop the leaderboard at the Women’s U.S. Open was based on statistics and facts. Korean women are absolutely dominating the LPGA Tour. If you asked me again my answer would be the same but worded more carefully.
This gave every sports commentator another opportunity to partake in recreational outrage and to use their favorite poker metaphor: “He doubled down.”
Yet both of Haney’s comments are quite similar to those made in an article for Golf Channel Digital in November of 2018:
If you suspect there is some factory churning out female golf stars in South Korea, you are probably more suspicious now. Jeongeun Lee6 won the inaugural Q-Series. The Korean LPGA attached the numeral to her name because there are so many players with the exact same name on its tour.
Why did Haney’s comments get such a reaction, while those in Golf Channel Digital did not?
One simple reason: The Golf Channel Digital team is not an enticing target for those partaking in recreational outrage.
Saul Alinsky sheds light on this difference in his book, Rules for Radicals. “Organizations, boards, and associations don’t feel pain” writes Alinsky. “People feel pain.” Given this, Alinsky prescribes, “Freeze it, isolate it, personalize it.”
Hank Haney is an individual. He makes for a better target. In fact, he is a white, upper-middle-class, male named “Hank” who makes a living teaching other well-to-do people how to play golf. He might be the ideal target.
To be fair, Asians named “Lee” have also fallen victim to the forces of political correctness. In August of 2017, ESPN removed Asian American announcer Robert Lee from announcing a University of Virginia football game due to his nominal resemblance to the Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Perhaps if he had attached a number to his last name, he would have been okay.
Moral of the story: If you’re a white guy named Hank, shut up. If your surname is “Lee,” you may want to add a number to the end (whatever you do, do not name your son “Robert”). And finally, remember that the truth is no longer a good defense.
[Image Credit: Flickr-Flash and Mel CC BY-SA 2.0]
John M. Howting III is assistant editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture.