California lawmaker questions LPGA language policy: borderline racist?

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Fri Sep 5 14:04:14 UTC 2008

California lawmaker questions LPGA language policy

By DON THOMPSON – 11 hours ago

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A California state senator said Thursday
that he's seeking a legal opinion to determine whether the LPGA Tour's
language requirement for players violates state or federal law. Sen.
Leland Yee is upset about a policy that requires players to speak
effective English starting in 2009. The rule is effective immediately
for new players, while veteran members will be suspended if they can't
pass an oral English test. The LPGA Tour expects to have the policy
written by the end of the year.

Yee, a Democrat from San Francisco, said the rule might violate
California laws covering workplace discrimination or disabilities. He
expects an answer from the state Legislative Counsel's Office within a
few weeks, before the tour returns to California. If the office
determines the language rule is legal, Yee said he will introduce a
bill to prohibit the policy from being enforced when the tour comes to
California. The LPGA policy is "an absolute slap in the face of women,
minorities, immigrants," Yee said.

State and federal civil rights laws were designed to prevent the type
of discrimination he said is embodied by the LPGA Tour policy.
"Even though you may be the best golfer, you may not be the winner,"
he said. "That's wrong." LPGA Tour officials didn't immediately
respond to a request for comment. Yee said the tour's policy might be
illegal because it will erect a barrier for players who are deaf or
mute, as well as those who don't speak English.

It also might break laws or run counter to legal precedent regarding
discrimination in the workplace. Yee noted that California courts
overturned a state law requiring hospital workers to speak English.
Yee filed his request with the state legal office Wednesday.
If the lawyers see a possible federal violation, Yee said he will turn
that finding over to California's congressional delegation. He said
his goal is to find a legal objection before the LPGA Tour event Oct.
2-5 at Half Moon Bay, which is in his legislative district. The tour
plays at a Danville country club, also in the San Francisco Bay area,
Oct. 9-12 before heading to China, South Korea, Japan and Mexico.

The tour includes 121 international players from 26 countries,
including 45 from South Korea. California Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi,
the only Korean-American in the Legislature, said she is disappointed
with the tour's policy. The Hayward Democrat said she's looking into
regulating professional golf through the state's athletic commission,
which is overseen by the Legislature.
Hayashi, who lived in South Korea until she was 13 and married a
Japanese-American, said she is not satisfied with the LPGA's
explanation for the rule — so players can more easily mingle with
sponsors as a way to help their "professional development." She said
no other major sports association has such a policy.

"Speaking English has nothing to do with how good you are at golf,"
she said. Meanwhile, the Asian Pacific American Legal Center has
scheduled a news conference Friday in Los Angeles, where it will be
joined by civil rights groups and elected officials demanding the LPGA
overturn its policy. If the tour refuses, state Assemblyman Ted Lieu
said civil rights advocates will try to persuade companies to drop
their sponsorships. "I can only conclude this is borderline racist,"
said Lieu, a Southern California Democrat who is chairman of the
state's 10-member Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus. "It'd be
like France requiring Lance Armstrong to pass a French test."
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