Home International Mixed reaction to Gary Player receiving US Presidential Medal of Freedom

Mixed reaction to Gary Player receiving US Presidential Medal of Freedom

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The EFF has described the award bestowed on legendary South African golfer Gary Player by outgoing US President Donald Trump as one alleged racist recognising another

File Picture: AP Photo, Charlie Riedel

DURBAN – The EFF has described the award bestowed on legendary South African golfer Gary Player by outgoing US President Donald Trump as one alleged racist recognising another.

However, top SA golfer Dale Hayes said Player deserved the Presidential Medal of Freedom that Trump presented to him last Thursday, a day after a mob of Trump supporters stormed Capitol Hill.

EFF Spokesperson Vusumuzi Khoza summed up the presentation of the award as “one racist recognising another”.

“Our viewpoint is very simple – it takes one racist to recognise another,” he said.

Khoza said this was demonstrated by the fact Player had not stood with golfer Papwa Sewgolum after Sewgolum beat him in the Natal Open in 1965. Sewgolum was forced to receive his trophy outside the Durban Country Club in the rain.

“There is no reason for him to receive an award from an outgoing racist (Trump) whose time is up. He should have been embarrassed to be associated with such a character,“ Khoza said.

Hayes disagreed with Khoza, saying although Trump had personally presented the award to Player, 85, at the White House, it was in fact an award from the US government.

“One of the most critical aspects is that although it was handed over by Donald Trump, it’s an award from the American government. They were giving the most prestigious award to a South African golfer,” Hayes said.

Player won 24 times on the PGA Tour and 19 times on the Champions Tour, including nine Majors and nine senior Majors, and is one of only five golfers to have achieved the career Grand Slam by winning all four of golf’s Majors.

“Perhaps he could have come up with some excuse to delay the handing over of the award. It’s quite unbelievable for a South African to receive that award, but on the other hand the timing was just very unfortunate. Gary Player does deserve that award. He’s the greatest sportsman South Africa has ever had, and for a golfer to get awarded by the American government is undoubtedly prestigious. But for him to get it on that day was unfortunate,“ he said.

“I don’t know what Gary Player’s political opinion is on American politics so I don’t think too much should be read into that,” he said.

Player’s publicist Duncan Cruickshank said neither the golfer nor his family would be commenting on the matter.

Golf South Africa had not responded to questions by the time of publication.

DA spokesperson on sports, arts and culture, Tsepho Mhlongo, said everyone in the sports fraternity should be appreciated.

“Sports unites, regardless of politics of the day. Gary Player is a golf legend and the biggest ambassador for South African sport in history. No South African has achieved what he has on the world sport stage,” Mhlongo said.

“He had a choice to accept or turn it down. We believe in freedom of individuals. Second, South Africa is an embarrassment by itself, nobody can embarrass it any further, ” Mhlongo said.

Mhlongo said Player had contributed immensely to golf, including in Soweto.