For years women have fought discrimination in sport, and now, a league of their own, the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) has decided to discriminate amongst their own, against those who cannot speak English. This rule not only applies to international players, but could also apply individuals that are deaf or hard of hearing that happen to be phenomenal golfers as well.
The LPGA’s commissioner, Carolyn Vesper Bivens, mandated a new rule requiring all tournament players to be able to speak English. If a player fails to do so, they were to be suspended. More recently, the LPGA has bowed to the pressures the rule has created and has altered the rule so that there will be fines instead of suspensions.
This rule is purely business driven in that it is assumed that the LPGA feels that their ideal audience cannot bond with non-English-speaking winners, as a result, sponsors and advertisers will shy away. “Players have to interact effectively with their pro-am partners. They need to be able to do media interviews. And they need to give a winner's acceptance speech in English," she said. "They must speak at a level that effectively accomplishes those three things" stated deputy commissioner, Libba Galloway. One can imagine the difficulty in obtaining sponsorship money if the winner of a tournament that a company sponsored cannot say more than a few words in English, being that a good majority of the sponsors are located in the United States. Most of the LPGA's media audience, one of the wealthiest that advertisers will pay the most to reach, is American. For the 2008 season, 70 percent of LPGA tournaments are scheduled in the United States (25 out of 36). However, non-Americans won 77 percent of the 26 tournaments held so far this year, and 27 percent of the tournaments were won by Asian players. Some of this year's non-American players, including Yani Tseng of Taiwan and InBee Park of South Korea, are already proficient in English, but other non-American players are not.
There are other leagues that do no require their athletes to speak English that have not faced enormous downfalls in sponsorship, funding or lack of interest; the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball. Lack of sponsorship and funding is a constant worry of women’s sports leagues because of past occurrences had by other women’s organizations, but is being discriminatory towards those who cannot speak English a way to avoid previous outcomes? If sponsors choose to remove their support because their fans cannot identify with the international players, maybe the LPGA should be look for other sponsors or look to target a new market?