National Anthem

Gary Player Is Worried About America

By Brian Costa,
from The Wall Street Journal,

The 81-year-old still plays golf and still speaks his mind. Though a believer in the ability of sports to effect social change, he’s not a fan of the anthem protests

“The rest of the world is laughing at you,” Gary Player said, and he was only getting started. The nine-time major champion was sitting on a bench at the driving range at Chelsea Piers, where Manhattan meets the Hudson River, late Thursday afternoon. A few hours earlier, he had sat alongside former presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama to watch the opening tee shots of the Presidents Cup. Now, still playing at 81 years old, he was taking a break from hitting balls. But golf was not foremost on his mind. More than anything, he wanted to talk about America, the closest thing to home for him outside his native South Africa. “I pass by the great Statue of Liberty in a ferry today, and I say, ‘The French gave it to you for a reason: freedom of speech and respect,’” he said. “And I see that dying. I see it dying.” This was not the kind of conversation people in the golf world like to have, at least in public. In the wake of President Donald Trump’s spat with the NFL over demonstrations during the national anthem, coupled with his spat with the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, most notable golfers avoided saying anything that could offend anyone. Tiger Woods said he hoped that “things can be healed.” When the national anthem was played Thursday before the start of competition, the players stood at attention—to absolutely no one’s surprise.

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