VIRGINIA WATER, England (AP) — The head of the European golf tour apologized for using the term “colored” during a live television interview Thursday in which he was reacting to the spat between Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia.
European Tour CEO George O’Grady said that “most of Sergio’s friends are colored athletes in the United States.”
The word “colored” was once widely used in the United States to refer to African-Americans but it is now considered antiquated and offensive. In some African countries, it is used to denote individuals of mixed racial ancestry.
“I deeply regret using an inappropriate word in a live interview for Sky Sports for which I unreservedly apologize,” O’Grady, who is British, said in a statement released later Thursday.
Woods and Garcia have exchanged barbs over the past two weeks, dating to the third round of The Players Championship when Garcia implied that Woods purposely stirred up the gallery as the Spaniard was playing a shot.
But the situation got uglier Tuesday when Garcia and his Ryder Cup teammates were at a dinner. The emcee, Golf Channel’s Steve Sands, jokingly asked Garcia if he would have Woods over for dinner during the U.S. Open.
“We’ll have him round every night,” Garcia replied. “We will serve fried chicken.”
The remark was reminiscent of Fuzzy Zoeller’s similar comment about Woods during his record-setting victory in the 1997 Masters, when Woods became the first player of black heritage to win a major.
Certain foods, fried chicken and watermelon in particular, have been used in dehumanizing caricatures of blacks as far back as the beginning America’s segregation era in the 19th century. The imagery has become less common in the decades since integration, though Woods — the only player of African-American heritage on the PGA Tour and the top player in the world — has occasionally endured racially tinged insults.
Garcia initially released an apologetic statement and followed it up Wednesday at a news conference from the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, site of the European Tour’s flagship event.
“I feel sick about it and I feel truly, truly sorry,” he said.
Garcia said he meant to give a funny answer to a playful question, and it turned out to be “totally stupid and out of place.”
In a series of tweets on Wednesday, Woods said: “The comment that was made wasn’t silly. It was wrong, hurtful and clearly inappropriate. I’m confident that there is real regret the remark was made. The Players ended nearly two weeks ago and it’s long past time to move on and talk about golf.”
After Garcia shot even par on Thursday, he told reporters he didn’t hear about O’Grady’s comments as he was playing, but he was told about it afterward and, “I think it unfortunate.”
Garcia said he had not spoken to Woods but had talked to his agent, Mark Steinberg. “He said they are moving forward,” Garcia said.
If not before, Garcia said he would speak with Wood at the U.S. Open in June.