LPGA Stands By Its Decision on English Skills for Golfers

Official Welcomes Debate, Says Critics Need to Understand Group's Business Model

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The LPGA is taking a lot of heat from sports commentators, community groups and now a major sponsor, State Farm, for its controversial new policy to require English-language proficiency for its players. State Farm has been publicly critical of the policy and said if the LPGA does not reconsider, the insurer may not renew its tour sponsorship.
Libba Galloway
Libba Galloway Credit: Getty Images

Today, Libba Galloway, deputy commissioner of the LPGA, spoke with Advertising Age about its policy and the concerns of its sponsors.

Ad Age: How do you respond to State Farm?

Ms. Galloway: We have been in communications with State Farm since last week and had a number of conversations with them and will continue that dialogue with them.

Ad Age: Do you disagree with what State Farm has said?

Ms. Galloway: That's a conversation between us and State Farm, and our conversations with our sponsors are just that: conversations between us and them.

Ad Age: Do you think LPGA's statement issued yesterday comes off the exact way you wanted it to?

Ms. Galloway: Absolutely. I don't see any problems with it, and we have had a number of people respond to it, and now they say the light bulb has gone off.

Ad Age: Have you been contacted by other sponsors?

Ms. Galloway: We've talked with a number of them, yes.

Ad Age: What kinds of things have they said?

Ms. Galloway: We've had dialogues with sponsors, but we haven't been keeping a tally of people in favor or against the policy. But the reactions are extremely varied, and we have some in total agreement, some sponsors who want more information and some who disagree.

Ad Age: If you had it to do over again, would you [announce the policy] differently and alert sponsors before the fact?

Ms. Galloway: This was always only intended to be an internal member [matter]. We're a membership organization, and this is a matter between the LPGA and our members, and just like other matters of membership regulation, we never intended to have a public announcement of it.

Ad Age: Should the LPGA have realized there would be such a backlash?

Ms. Galloway: We know different people have different opinions on things, and we didn't anticipate the depth and the variance of the reaction that we received, particularly considering this is an internal membership regulation. But as we're getting feedback, it's running from total agreement with it to people who disagree with the position. And we find that the more we explain our business model, the more likely people will be in agreement with us. We welcome this dialogue.

Ad Age: Are you concerned and possibly rethinking this, or do you plan to forge ahead regardless of what your sponsors and others think?

Ms. Galloway: This is a program that didn't happen overnight. We've been working on it for three years now, and we intend to continue with it. That having been said, we are listening to the feedback and engaging in dialogue with [those who gave us feedback], and we have had useful exchanges of information.

Ad Age: What is your reasoning for the policy?

Ms. Galloway: The reason is that this policy is vital to LPGA business and tour membership. Our focus on effective communication in English is fundamental to our business model.

Ad Age: What is your response to the community groups that believe this is racist?

Ms. Galloway: We've been in dialogue with some of those [groups] and find that the dialogue gets to be more beneficial once we explain some very key points of our program. Once we explain this, we learn a lot from each other.
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