Volume 1, Number 16 October 22, 2003

Editorial on the Jan Stephenson comments

Pages 1, 2, 3
Last week, Jan Stephenson became the first woman to play on the men's Senior golf tour, the 'Champion's Tour'. She accepted this invitation because, or so she says, she was hoping to publicize the fledgling Women's Senior Tour by proving that the old time women can still play. However, any positive publicity she was hoping to snag was quickly washed away in a sea of negativity. Was it because she played poorly and finished dead last in the field? Hardly; given Stephenson's play of late, one would not have expected her to do much better. No, it was because an interview with Golf Magazine was made public in which, among (many) other ill-considered things, she attacked the Asian players on the LPGA tour.

"This is probably going to get me in trouble, but the Asians are killing our tour. Absolutely killing it. Their lack of emotion, their refusal to speak English when they can speak English. They rarely speak. We have two-day pro-ams where people are paying a lot of money to play with us, and they say, 'Hello and good-bye.' Our tour is predominantly international and the majority of them are Asian. They've taken it over."

The unemotional Se Ri Pak

Mi Hyun Kim can barely contain her boredom
after winning the Wendy's Championship
last year

And as that were not enough, she added this:

"If I were commissioner, I would have a quota on international players and that would include a quota on Asian players," she continued. "As it is, they're taking American money. American sponsors are picking up the bill. There should be a qualifying school for Americans and a qualifying school for international players. I'm Australian, an international player, but I say America has to come first. Sixty percent of the tour should be American, 40 percent international."

When given a chance to apologize on Golf Central, she not only did not take back what she said, but added that the Asian players 'do not sign autographs' or 'interact with the fans or media' and 'work together to avoid sponsor parties' by 'sneaking out of the tent flap together'.

To be fair, Jan Stephenson did issue an apology, although she never took anything back she said in the interview. Rather, she insisted she did not intend to make it a racial issue (but what else is one to make of the statement 'The Asians are killing the tour'?) and apologized for hurting people with her remarks. Well and good, but the real hurtfulness, as we shall see, is that there are a lot of people out there who will defend Stephenson's remarks. They will assume that, since she is an 'insider', her facts must be above reproach, and thus will invoke the First Amendment and say that the outrage is only because of our politically correct times and our society's unwillingness to hear bad things said about a race of people. To combat that kind of idiocy, it is necessary to go through her statements carefully to point out how each and every one of them, without fail, is at least questionable and at worst a bogus tissue of lies (And hurtful lying about someone, by the way, is not a First Amendment issue; it's called slander, and is illegal and actionable). Then we'll examine her 'brilliant' solution to the problem, and collectively thank our lucky stars that she is not, and will never be, commissioner of the LPGA.

So did she say anything that's even remotely true? Let's see:

"The Asians are killing the tour"
FALSE. The tour revenues have never been better. Stephenson's ridiculous premise was based on her notion that the most important and only revenue generator is the pro-am. But in several other ways, the Asian players are clearly helping the LPGA make big bucks. There are five Asian companies sponsoring events this year: Samsung (whose tournament coincidentally was going on the week the comments first surfaced), CJ & Sports Today, Mizuno, Takefuji and Asahi Ryokuken. That's a lot of Asian money that the Americans (and Australians like Stephenson) have no problem taking. South Korea also pays the largest rights fees for TV coverage of the LPGA outside the US, and account for the largest international sales of LPGA merchandise as well. No less a person than Ty Votaw, Commissioner of the LPGA, pointed out these facts to reporters after this incident, as well as mentioning that the increased gate at tournaments is in part due to an influx of Asian fans (mostly Korean) who come to see the events to watch their heroes.

Some of the Asian companies that support the LPGA

The taciturn Grace Park at Kingsmill this year.
She speaks fluent English, by the way...

"Our tour is predominantly international and the majority of them are Asian. They've taken it over."
FALSE. There are at most about 30 Asians on tour, maybe 35. That's out of, what, 200 players with some kind of status on tour? 15% - 20%. Hardly 'taking over the tour'. And even if you include all International players (of which Stephenson, who is Australian, is one), that's still not more than 60% tops (and probably less than half). In my opinion this is a very racist statement; the evidence clearly contradicts it, but since she has to see Asian faces these days, where before she saw none, she makes the logical leap that they are 'taking over'.

"They refuse to speak English when they can speak English"
FALSE. What about Grace Park, Jenny Rosales, Se Ri Pak, Gloria Park (raised in Australia), Minny Yeo, Siew-Ai Lim, Pearl Sinn, Candie Kung, Jimin Kang, Young-A Yang? They all speak fluent or virtually fluent English and do so in all Press Conferences. Han and Kimmie have taken to speaking English as well, though they are less fluent. Soo-Yun Kang is reported to be able to speak decently, and I've had a conversation with Sunny Lee. That's a fairly significant percentage of the Asian players who can speak English very well, and do so.

Now, are there *any* Asian players who do not speak English well? Of course. Korea and Japan are not like Western Europe, where kids are learning English in school from a young age. Some of the players who come over here do not have much knowledge of the language. And guess what, it takes a while to acquire it. I see no evidence that the Asian players who are not fluent are not trying to learn the language (the fact they can communicate with their caddies is a good sign they have learned some basics). But give them a chance to learn it without instantly accusing them (without evidence, I might add) of not even trying. Would Stephenson be giving press conferences in Japanese less than a year after joining a Japanese golf tour? Of course not.
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