Former World Long Drive champion Maurice Allen has opened up on life as a black man in a ‘white sport’, revealing he has had competitors “rain n-words and racial slurs on me without remorse”.
As the protests following the killing of George Floyd continue across America and worldwide, Allen — the 2018 World Long Drive winner — told Golf Digest of his experiences in a sport with little black representation.
“Often I’m the only black man in a competition,” Allen said. “That puts me in spots and places I don’t want to be.
“That’s what breaks my heart about golf. It’s supposed to be a game of integrity. I’ve found it to be anything but. I’m not talking about it being elitist. I’m talking about its entitlement. To me, that word means something different. Because when you’re entitled, you have a responsibility to use that privilege in a meaningful way.
“Instead, golf acts as a club. It’s often hard to get in, or it makes excuses for the errors of those in the club. We have given so many excuses for foolishness that you delay change. You’re not dealing with the actual situation. If we have a problem, we have to address it.”
Allen grew up in Pine Hills outside Orlando, Florida, and currently lives in Atlanta.
“I live in the South. I can’t tell you how many times I pull into course parking lots to see cars littered with confederate flags. And every time, I’ll ask, 'Hey, what is this?' And the defences never fail. 'Oh come on, it’s not what you think it means', or 'Don’t worry, he’s really a good guy'. There’s no accountability or the slightest amount of empathy of how it makes me feel.”
He is a sought after motivational speaker and spokesperson, but fears that many of his words have fallen on deaf ears, or have served only to tick boxes for conference organisers.
“I get invited to do a talk at a conference or participate in some type of roundtable about diversity in the sport. After I’m done, people get emotional, come up to me and say thank you, and promise me they’re going to help. They talk a great talk. And then, a week later, my phone calls are going unanswered. Or there’s red tape. Or, 'You know, we want to help, but now’s not a great time'. Then the same people ask me back the next year to the same conference or show. I’ve realised they don’t care about a cause; they want to check a box. But I still go, hoping my words will reach someone new in the audience.”
He has now appealed to all golfers and golf lovers to make a personal contribution to making a difference.
“The participation rate of blacks in golf hasn’t changed since Tiger has come on the scene. That might not be your fault, but whatever you’re doing isn’t helping, either.
“Golf is supposed to be an accountable sport. You hit a bad shot, that’s on you. You break a rule, you call it on yourself. Stop making excuses or guessing someone’s intention.
“Start using that same accountability you apply to golf to racism, sexism, and injustice. Ask your club what they are doing to recruit minorities. Call out your buddy making racial jokes on the course. Educate yourself on black foundations that aren’t just The First Tee. And, maybe, we might get to the other side.”