Opinion: Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy win the day by speaking up in favor of voting rights

Opinion: Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy win the day by speaking up in favor of voting rights

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy made their own brand of golf history within 30 minutes of each other Tuesday afternoon by launching a strong defense of voting rights and/or civil rights in the press conference room at Augusta National Golf Club when asked about Georgia’s controversial voter suppression law.

“I have to be respectful and somewhat careful what I say because I'm not a citizen of this country,” McIlroy, who is from Northern Ireland but lives in Florida, said in response to a question from USA TODAY Sports, “but I certainly think all great countries and democracies are built on equal voting rights and everyone being able to get to the ballot boxes as easily as possible.”

He continued: “Look, I'm all for getting people to get out and vote and to have a great democracy, and I've chosen to live in this country because I believe this country is the best country in the world. You know, America is the land of opportunity, and it's the American dream. You work hard; you get rewarded. So I believe in all of that stuff. 

Phil Mickelson plays in a practice round Tuesday as he tries to win his fourth Masters. (Photo: Rob Schumacher, USA TODAY Sports)

"But yeah, I'm all for people being able to have the right to vote and to be able to do it in the easiest way possible.”

Also replying to a question from USA TODAY Sports, Mickelson began by saying he is “really not knowledgeable on state laws across the United States and all the laws that we have,” then quickly added, “I'm aware of some from California that we have, and we tend to be the leader in a lot of that area as far as human rights, civil rights, diversity and so forth, and I'm proud of that. And hopefully as a Californian, although I'll be moving soon, we lead by example.”

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Mickelson continued: “So I'm not really familiar with the details of what all you're talking about, but I do believe in the rights and treating all people equal, and I hope that as a Californian we lead by example and that others will follow suit.”

PGA champion Collin Morikawa was asked if golf should intervene in the controversy over the Georgia law as Major League Baseball did last week by pulling the All-Star Game out of Atlanta. Some have called for the Masters to pull out of Georgia, which is not going to happen since Augusta National and the Masters are synonymous.

On Saturday, the PGA Tour said it was not moving its season-ending Tour Championship from Atlanta, citing its financial commitment to the local community and various charities.

“This voter stuff and voters for American citizens is very important,” Morikawa said Monday. “I think that's the topic we should all be talking about. We shouldn't be talking about whether we're here (in Georgia) or not. The Masters, the PGA Tour, we do such a good job and we're trying to help communities out, and I think that's our main focus for the week. 

"But overall, the topic of voter rights and all that, that should be the topic that we talk about.” 

On March 25, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law a sweeping Republican-sponsored voter suppression bill that includes new restrictions on voting by mail, greater GOP legislative control over state and county election officials and a prohibition against outside groups giving food or water to people waiting in line to vote.

The bill, which civil rights groups believe will restrict voting access for people of color, is rooted in former President Trump’s notoriously false claims that the 2020 election was stolen, both across the nation and in Georgia. President Biden won Georgia, while both of the state’s Republican-held U.S. Senate seats were won by Democrats.  

Kemp signed the law with six white men by his side and a painting of a former slave plantation behind him.

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