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AUGUSTA, Ga. — There's one topic burbling under the surface here at Augusta. It peeks out in the course of almost every press conference, after the requisite questions about club selection and how-are-you-feeling. It's the question of the new Georgia election law, and systemic inequality, and how players in one of the most exclusive venues on the planet are reconciling themselves to what's going on outside the gates.
To their credit, players are discussing the topic, not hiding behind "I don't do politics" platitudes. Many are drawing a difference between matters of personal preference, like political beliefs, and matters of universal importance, like equality and opportunity.
Few have been as outspoken as Cameron Champ, one of the few minority golfers on the PGA Tour and the only player of Black heritage at this year's Masters. Speaking at his pre-Masters press conference, Champ gave a bit of insight into what it's like inside the ropes. Most players, he said, don't discuss politics at all. Some of that comes from an unwillingness to ruffle feathers, but some, according to Champ, comes from a simple lack of knowledge.
To that point, Champ noted that in the wake of protests over the killing of Breonna Taylor and the shooting of Jacob Blake, he spoke out both with words and symbolism at the BMW Championship. "I was really the only one to say anything," he said. "I remember walking onto the range, and I had Breonna Taylor and Jacob Blake on my shoes, and I got asked by three different people, who are they? To me, again, that proves the point of why I'm doing it."
It would be a mistake to write off the entire golf community because of a few unaware individuals on one range, but by the same token, Champ clearly believes it's not asking too much for players to at least be aware of what's going on in the outside world, and he plans to keep speaking up.
"It's something I feel like I have to do," he said. "Just trying to keep it going and trying to create more foundation around it to get it going and get it building because ... social injustice or equality or race, it's only talked about when bad incidents happen, which is kind of unfortunate."
Champ said he doesn't discuss politics with other players — "I avoid that at all costs" — but tried to strike a note of awareness and insight that's often lacking in public discussions of political beliefs. "Everybody has their own personal opinions and rights. So just because you might have a ... different opinion than me doesn't mean I like you or I dislike you. When people start talking politics, that's when things get really sticky because people get their feelings hurt or they don't agree with my opinion."
Much more to come on this topic this week, but as Champ sees the world of golf, "There's a lot of work that needs to be done, but I think everything is going the right direction."
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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