Citi keeps Thomas; money set for LGBTQ causes

Golf

Investment bank Citi decided Monday to keep its sponsorship of Justin Thomas, condemning the anti-gay slur he muttered and requiring him to donate a “meaningful portion” of his deal as part of an active role in LGBTQ causes.

Carla Hassan, the chief marketing officer of New York-based Citi, announced the decision in a company blog post titled, “When an apology is not enough.”

“We considered terminating our relationship with him,” she wrote. “It would send a clear and important message, but we decided to use this moment to work with Justin to try to create change.”

Thomas, the No. 3 player in the world whose 13 victories at age 27 include a major championship, missed a 4-foot par putt in the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua on Jan. 9 when television audio caught him muttering the slur under his breath. Thomas apologized after the third and final rounds.

Ralph Lauren Corp. ended its sponsorship of him a week later.

Hassan said some of her colleagues felt anything less than cutting ties to Thomas would undermine Citi’s commitment to the LGBTQ community, adding that that was considered.

“We want to more than make it clear that it is wrong to use this word,” she wrote. “Instead, we hope our efforts can lead more people to make an affirmative choice not to use this word or others like it — and speak up when others do — because they understand the impact it can have, including on a friend, colleague or teammates who may be struggling with the decision to disclose their sexual orientation.”

She said Citi would work with Thomas to help accelerate support for the LGBTQ community and to increase awareness. Terms of his endorsement deal with Citi were not disclosed, nor did the company say how much money would be donated to various organizations as a “meaningful portion” of his sponsorship fee.

“If at any point we feel Justin is not sincere in working toward this goal, we will end our relationship with him,” she wrote.

For Thomas, who has emerged as one of the best players in the world since earning his PGA Tour card one year after leaving college at Alabama, this marks some of the first criticism of his behavior.

He won the PGA Championship in 2017 at Quail Hollow, has two World Golf Championships titles and twice has risen to No. 1 in the world.

Thomas missed the cut last week in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a double bogey on his final hole. He is not playing this week in San Diego. He typically plays the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which will be played next week with an estimated 5,000 spectators per day — a small fraction of the usual attendance at golf’s rowdiest tournament.

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