BEDMINSTER, N.J. — The U.S. Women’s Open needed a hero. None came forward.
Not one of the 156 golfers at Trump National Golf Course uttered a word of dissent. None offered any measure of protest to Donald Trump’s continual diminishment of women. None wore a symbol of displeasure clothing; no cat ears rebuked the Grabber in Chief.
They competed for a record $5 million, made loads more for the USGA and the LPGA, and, of course, supplied millions in revenue and advertising to Trump’s corporation.
And they kept their mouths shut.
You wonder: Will they regret it?
Some might regret it now; some might regret it in 10 years; some might regret it in 20, if their daughters suffer from institutional sexism in athletics, or in any profession.
It would have been hard, and it might have been costly, but this was their moment to say something.
The moment is gone.
They played in Bedminster because, in 2012, the USGA recognized that Trump’s property was a perfect choice. Back then the Donald was just a caricature of an American magnate; a nouveau riche reality-show pseudo-star best known for bankrupt businesses and morals. His casual misogyny was just one more unsavory facet of his comically flawed makeup.
Now, though, he’s no joke. Trump is the President of the United States. He was never even the most powerful man in New Jersey, but now he’s the most powerful man in the world. His words and deeds carry infinitely more weight. His conduct toward women during and since his campaign has been abominable, whether directed at Hillary Clinton or a former beauty queen or a female talk-show host or, on Bastille Day, the wife of the president of France.
You wonder sometimes if he even knows he’s offensive. You never wonder if he cares.
By playing in this event without a whimper of discord the strong, independent women of the LPGA implicitly endorsed his behavior.
Rest assured, they were warned by their agents, their managers and their families. They might have been threatened by their sponsors and by their governing bodies.
Any of them who considered criticizing Trump had good reason to fear backlash from their employers, from social media and, sadly, from the president himself. Trump’s demand for loyalty and his lust for revenge are his most defining characteristics. He is a terrible enemy.
Juli Inkster, one of the greatest golfers in American history, explained the golfers’ decisions to demur: “It’s a no-win situation.”
Well, dissent always is a no-win situation. Ask Tommie Smith or John Carlos or Muhammad Ali. Ask soccer player Megan Rapinoe, a white female Team USA member who, in 2016, twice knelt during the national anthem in solidarity with 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who knelt during the anthem before NFL games … to protest police brutality against black men. Rapinoe showed staggering bravery.
There was no such bravery shown in Bedminster.
The golfers simply avoided the issue. They said they didn’t want to get involved in politics, but 55 of the players are Americans, so that response was nonsense. Every American is, by definition, involved in politics. That’s how a democracy works. We govern ourselves.
It is notable that, for the most part, the golfers at Bedminster were painfully young, sheltered and staggeringly self-centered. They have spent their short lives pursuing their greatest personal advantage, from deciding when to turn pro to deciding if they should go for the green in two. Little wonder they believe the risk of challenging Trump outweighs any possible reward.
They believe that now, anyway. What will they believe in 20 years?
Some will rationalize their decisions. Some won’t have to.
Cristie Kerr, who has won almost $19 million and finished tied for 19th on Sunday, is a rabid Trump supporter. Lexi Thompson, the top-ranked American woman and No. 3 in the world, is as well; she wound up tied for 27th.
So did Stacy Lewis, the No. 3 American on the all-time money list, who didn’t seem happy to shill for Trump this week. Lizette Salas, an American whose parents are Mexican immigrants, tweeted her distaste for Trump’s win; she finished tied for 15th.
None should have boycotted. The purse was huge, and it is the biggest event. Nevertheless, they could have indicated at least a little dismay at having to play the 16th hole under the gaze of a man who boasted about his sexual assaults.
Women’s groups called for the tournament to be moved when Trump won the Republican nomination last year. A move would have cost the USGA and LPGA dearly, and so those calls were ignored.
The USGA and the LPGA chose to betray the golfer at the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open.
The golfers then chose to betray themselves.