Golf great Gary Player has been criticised for accepting the Presidential Medal of Freedom from outgoing US President Donald Trump in a closed-door ceremony on Thursday.
Trump also bestowed the award, America’s highest civilian honour, posthumously on Olympic gold medallist and women’s golf pioneer Babe Didrikson Zaharias and Annika Sörenstam.
“Today, President Donald J. Trump awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously to Babe Zaharias,” the White House said in a press release.
“The president also presented the award to previously announced recipients Annika Sörenstam and Gary J. Player.”
Player, 85, is one of just five players to complete a career Grand Slam, capturing all four of golf’s modern major titles. In all, he won nine majors and 24 US PGA Tour titles.
He has been trending on social media since, with South Africans criticising him for “embarrassing” the country.
His son, Marc Player, has also been vocal about the award, and said his father should have declined the award.
I really wish my father would have simply & politely declined this “award” at this time, from this man. Tone deaf. In denial. Wrong!
— Marc Player (@Marc_Player) January 7, 2021
“One word simply cannot provide any justification. Nor should Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods acceptance be condoned. Shame on all of them.”
Player’s award comes a day after chaos erupted in the US Capitol building, when a ragtag group egged on by Trump breached Capitol security and temporarily brought a halt to Congress’s confirmation of Joe Biden’s victory in the November presidential election.
Trump has since slammed his supporters, saying they would pay for the violence.
“Like all Americans, I am outraged by the violence, lawlessness and mayhem. I immediately deployed the national guard and federal law enforcement to secure the building and expel the intruders. America is and must always be a nation of law and order,” said Trump.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 8, 2021