LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Justin Thomas is losing another corporate sponsor in the wake of his muttering a homophobic slur after missing a putt in the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua on Jan. 9.
Brown-Forman does not plan to renew Thomas’ endorsement deal with its Woodford Reserve brand when it expires in April, the company confirmed today through a spokesperson. The world No. 3 golfer and Goshen, Kentucky, native had been sponsored by Woodford Reserve since 2015.
Thomas previously had been dropped by Ralph Lauren, following his referring to himself with a homophobic pejorative. The slur was caught by television audio from a microphone near the green where he was playing.
Thomas has apologized for the slur, saying, “It's terrible. I'm extremely embarrassed. It's not the kind of person that I am ... But unfortunately I did it and I have to own up to it and I'm very apologetic. I deeply apologize to everybody and anybody who I offended and I'll be better because of it.”
In an email to Brown-Forman employees from Woodford Reserve Global Brand Director Mark Bacon and co-signed by Brown-Forman marketing director Erin Schlader and the company’s executive leadership team, the company outlined its efforts to help Thomas learn more about LGBTQI+ issues, as well as its actions in listening its LGBTQI+ advisory group, PRIDE, and other LGBTQI+ stakeholders, on the harm Thomas’ comment caused. A source provided a copy of the email to WDRB News.
The letter says that Brown-Forman would refer Thomas to “national and local organizations that work to end discrimination against LGBTQI+ people and other ways in which Justin can make himself part of the solution.”
The document also told employees that the company did not plan to renew its deal with Thomas “at this time” and that “the brand team has suspended shipments of the remaining Woodford Reserve Justin Thomas personal selection bottles. We are also reviewing and updating all sponsorship agreements to ensure that they make clear our expectations for respect -- that it is a core value at Brown-Forman and must be visible in not only how we represent ourselves, but also in those we choose to represent our brands.”
Among companies that have retained endorsement deals with Thomas is the investment bank Citi, which said in a blog post, “We considered terminating our relationship with him. It would send a clear and important message, but we decided to use this moment to work with Justin to try to create change."
Brown-Forman, which put on an education session titled, “The F-word: It’s history, use in sports and why it’s so harmful,” for employees, said it would use the incident to increase understanding and awareness.
“None of us are immune from bias, but here at Brown-Forman, we work especially hard to identify where it shows up and to call it out when we see it,” the e-mail said. “While this has been a learning moment for Justin Thomas, it’s also been a learning moment for all of us. And it’s a reminder that words matter, respect matters, saying and doing the right thing matters, and our commitment to diversity and inclusion matters. We need to work hard at it, within ourselves and with each other, every single day.”
Copyright 2021 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.