Top & Flop of the Week: Ralph Lauren acts fast, Australian Open looks troubled

PRWeek shines a light on major brand and corporate successes and failures of the past week.

Credits: (L) Justin Thomas, photographed by Warren Little; (R) Novak Djokovic, by Mark Brake (both via Getty Images)
Credits: (L) Justin Thomas, photographed by Warren Little; (R) Novak Djokovic, by Mark Brake (both via Getty Images)

Top: Ralph Lauren's swift action after homophobic slur

PRWeek commends the fashion company for its swift and decisive response to a challenge that could have turned into a crisis this week.

Pro golfer Justin Thomas was widely condemned for uttering a homophobic slur, caught on microphone, during the third round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.

Ralph Lauren, a sponsor of the US player, wasted little time announcing it had parted ways with him. The company's statement was a direct condemnation, with no sense of pandering to the sport star. It was also a re-statement of Ralph Lauren's brand values.

“We are disheartened by Mr Thomas’ recent language, which is entirely inconsistent with our values," the statement said.

“While we acknowledge that he has apologised and recognises the severity of his words, he is a paid ambassador of our brand and his actions conflict with the inclusive culture that we strive to uphold. In reflecting on the responsibility we have to all of our stakeholders, we have decided to discontinue our sponsorship of Mr Thomas at this time.”

For his part, Thomas didn't criticise the company's actions, focusing instead on his own stupidity. “They [Ralph Lauren] are a huge, huge global brand, and I have to respect their decision," the 27-year-old told the media. “I wasn’t disappointed, because I put them in a terrible position. I just was more upset."

Separately, the company made global news after it was revealed that Joe Biden wore a Ralph Lauren suit at his presidential inauguration on Wednesday.

The fashion-to-homewares business will be thrilled that this dominated coverage of its brand this week, having nipped a potential crisis in the bud.

John Harrington, UK editor

Flop: Australian Open gets off to tricky start

Although tennis fans are very much looking forward to the Grand Slam tournament taking place from 8 February, having been postponed by three weeks from its normal place in the calendar owing to the COVID-19 crisis, preparations for this international sporting event got off to an inauspicious start.

To their surprise and horror, about 70 of the competitors – nearly a quarter of the complement – have been forced into two weeks of strict quarantine in their hotel rooms after a series of people on their flights to Australia tested positive for the virus.

These athletes were expecting quarantine but also expected to be able to train, not realising that any positive tests on their flight would result in them being so restricted. They now fear their performance at this major tournament will be hampered by the lack of preparation time, and claim they weren’t fully warned about the risk of this happening.

Tennis Australia has hit back, saying that this was always in the small print of the players' invitations to attend. And the Australian public has criticised carping players who they believe do not appreciate how strict the rules are in a country that has been highly effective in tackling the virus through measures such as closing borders and implementing hard lockdowns.

Laying the tennis stars open to particular ridicule, world number one Novak Djokovic made a series of unrealistic demands on behalf of the quarantined players, while Bernard Tomic's girlfriend Vanessa Sierra appeared in a video blog moaning that she was not used to washing her own hair – although she later insisted this was a joke.

The situation has not been a great look for Tourism Australia either, as quarantined players have complained about their rooms and the quality of the food provided. Even worse, a couple of players have posted videos and photos showing infestations of mice in their rooms.

Of course it might eventually be ‘alright on the night’ for this usually brilliant tennis event. So far, however, few parties have exactly enhanced their reputations.

Danny Rogers, editor-in-chief

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