By Joel Beall
Kirk Triplett felt compelled to do something. He just wasn’t sure what.
“I’m certainly not a guy with solutions,” says Triplett, a three-time PGA Tour winner. “But it begins with talking about it. And right now, golf isn’t talking about it, and I wasn’t sure if it would.”
Triplett is referring to the ongoing protests against racial injustice in America. It is a subject he is well versed. Triplett and his wife, Cathi, are the parents to four children, two of whom are adopted minorities. The youngest child, Kobe, 18, is a Black American. Triplett said race has always been a topic in the household. They are not easy discussions.
“You want things to be better, but you also have to tell them how things are,” Triplett says. “I have to explain to my son that things are going to be different for him because of his skin colour.”
Throughout this summer of civil unrest, Triplett, 58, has contemplated what he could do. What he had to do. He talked with his family, and he researched ways to help out. He wanted to make a statement but also not just make a statement for statement’s sake.
Which is why Triplett, when arriving at this week’s Senior Players Championship at Firestone C.C., in Akron, Ohio, decided to put a sticker on his golf bag. A sticker that read “BLACK LIVES MATTER.”
In doing so, Triplett became the first player on a PGA Tour circuit to publicly endorse the movement. “I wasn’t trying to make a stand,” Triplett says. “I was just trying to put a question, an idea out there.”
A social-media person from the tour saw the bag earlier this week and asked Triplett if he would comment on it. The video, and Triplett’s remarks, garnered more than 130,000 views on Twitter in less than a day.
For @realcaptainkirk, Black Lives Matter is personal.
His youngest son is African-American. pic.twitter.com/kH5jL7E8oz
— PGA TOUR Champions (@ChampionsTour) August 11, 2020
“The video went up and kind of exploded,” Triplett says. “I talked to my wife last night and we both realized this had become a thing.”
Going viral hasn’t made Triplett reconsider his decision. Especially given his feelings against the sport’s lack of action on the matter. “Look, golfers are great with charity, and on the whole are socially conscious,” he says. “But the game never crosses the line into some of the more uncomfortable stuff.
“Well, this is an uncomfortable time, and we can’t ignore it.”
The PGA Tour Champions veteran felt galvanized by the idea that there are many others like him that wanted to say something but didn’t know if it was there place, or how to deliver the message. “I can say these things because I have a Black son,” Triplett says. “That perspective does help. But there is a group of guys out here who believe in the movement. They just don’t want to come off as showboats.”
That sentiment, that this is all for attention, weighed on Triplett. Worse, he feared it could come off as hollow, inadvertently hurting the message. He also knew there could be backlash. “Yeah, my wife told me, ‘Whatever you do, don’t go online. It’s not pretty,’” Triplett said.
Yet he felt like Black Lives Matter wasn’t being acknowledged by golf, and a conversation needed to be had. If he was the one who had to start that conversation, so be it.
“Listen, it’s not easy,” Triplett says. “The makeup of our game—be it social, economical, people—is drastically different from other sports. But we can’t use that as an excuse to not do something.”
Triplett said the decision was entirely his own, that he didn’t talk it over with his son. “He’s a teenager. If he could, he’d take an invisible pill,” Triplett says. But being a father means showing your son what it takes to be a man, he says. And that means doing what you believe is right.
“I can’t possibly have the same connection to Black Lives Matters as LeBron James or other athletes promoting the message,” he said. “But I can understand why it’s important, and why I need to do my part.”