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When an Apology is Not Enough

January 25, 2021
Carla Hassan, Chief Brand Officer

Justin Thomas commits to working with Citi to build awareness about how words, actions and inactions perpetuate discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community

One of our Team Citi golfers, Justin Thomas, used an anti-gay slur to describe his own effort after missing a putt. Citi is a strong advocate for the LGBTQ+ community and equality more generally, and we found Justin Thomas' language beyond offensive and in sharp contrast to what we stand for as a company. While he recognized how wrong his language was and apologized, we have made it clear to Justin that an apology alone isn't sufficient.

We considered terminating our relationship with him. It would send a clear and important message, but we decided to use this moment to work with Justin to try to create change. While we have engaged with many in the LGBTQ+ community who agree with our decision, there are some – including some of my Citi colleagues – who believe that anything less than termination undermines our firm's commitment to the LGBTQ+ community. We strongly considered that perspective and have great respect for it, and balanced it against the opportunity this situation provides to drive a more sustainable effort to shift minds and behavior. We want to do more than make it clear that it is wrong to use this word. Instead, we hope our efforts can lead more people to make an affirmative choice not to use this word or others like it – and to speak up when others do – because they understand the impact it can have, including on a friend, colleague or teammate who may be struggling with the decision to disclose their sexual orientation.

To that end, Citi will work with Justin to use his platform to play an active role in accelerating support for the LGBTQ+ community and to increase awareness of the discrimination this community continues to face. In addition, he will donate a meaningful portion of his Citi 2021 sponsorship fee to mutually agreed upon LGBTQ+ organizations. We will work with Justin, our internal Pride networks and LGBTQ+ organizations to develop an action plan to quickly move this effort forward.

So there is no doubt, we strongly condemn the use of this homophobic slur by Justin and anyone else, and our actions now should in no way be interpreted as excusing it or even forgiving it. This is not about Justin as an individual, but the view that his influence and this moment of public attention create an opportunity to educate many who are not sufficiently attuned to the discrimination the LGBTQ+ community continues to face and how words, actions and inactions perpetuate that discrimination. If at any point we feel that Justin is not sincere in working toward this goal, we will end our relationship with him.

The strong feelings this situation has evoked among many, including some of my colleagues, weighs very heavily on me. While not everyone will agree with the approach we are taking, I can give you my strongest assurances that this course of action is based on our allyship for the LGBTQ+ community and is backed by my personal commitment to lead the effort necessary to create something positive out of this. We hope that even those who would have preferred a different course of action will work with us to make this effort as impactful as possible, inside and outside of Citi.

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