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Jim Meehan: Black Lives Matter movement hits home for golfer Kirk Triplett

UPDATED: Sat., Sept. 5, 2020

Kirk Triplett put a Black Lives Matter sticker on his golf bag prior to the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship last month, warmed up and arrived at the first tee for a practice round.

In that brief time period, the Champions Tour’s social media rep took notice and asked Triplett what he wanted to convey on the topic of racial injustice.

“I found out quickly people were going to ascribe different reasons for why I was doing it,” said Triplett, who was born in Moses Lake and attended Pullman High and the University of Nevada before lengthy stints on the PGA and Champions tours. “So I thought I’d be pretty clear and consistent with my messaging.”

It didn’t take long to organize his thoughts, but the same can’t be said about Triplett’s introspective journey to reportedly becoming the first tour pro to display Black Lives Matter on his bag.

He knew he’d be asked what prompted his decision. That, too, takes time to fully explain.

A family photo tells part of the story: There’s Kirk, wife Cathi, 24-year-old twin sons Conor and Sam, 20-year-old adopted daughter Alexis and 18-year-old adopted son Kobe. Alexis is Hispanic while Kobe’s biological parents are Japanese (mother) and African American (father).

“When you look at our family photo, you know what we’ve done and what’s of interest to us,” Triplett said. “We didn’t do it for racial reasons or activist reasons. We adopted kids because we wanted to have more kids and weren’t able to.”

The COVID-19 pandemic shut down the Champions Tour for months, leaving Triplett with unexpected free time at the family home in Scottsdale, Arizona. Everything changed after George Floyd died from a police officer kneeling on his neck for roughly 8 minutes, sparking protests across the country.

“It really got my thinking maybe for the first time in my life about this kind of stuff,” Triplett said. “I’ve had an African American son for 18 years and this stuff has been going on the whole time. He’s had some racial incidents, but mostly minor things. When he turned 16 and he gets pulled over, we told him it’s very important to be compliant. I’ve told all my kids that, but it’s important for him to understand this.

“For the first time it just really hit me, what can I do?”

Triplett at one point literally googled: “What can a white person do?”

“I just felt so hopeless,” he said. “For the first time, I just got an inkling, the smallest bit of understanding what this section of society goes through on a daily basis. I have no idea what the answers are, but I think the reason I ended up putting the sticker on my bag was more, ‘Look, I hear what you’re saying and I agree with you.’ These are tremendously complicated issues we’re talking about.”

Feedback via social media, Champions Tour players and letters he received ranged from disturbing to enlightening.

“My wife and older boys were dismayed the first couple days with the negativity, but there was plenty of positive stuff, too,” said Triplett, who is 8 for 8 in made cuts with four top 25s and a No. 37 ranking in the Schwab Cup standings. “I got a few fantastic letters from people that came to this realization a long time before me.

“We have guys (on tour) from all walks of life. Some think it’s great and some were like, ‘What are we even talking about here?’ “

Triplett, a self-described curious sort and news junkie, said that’s exactly the response he expected from tour players.

“There are times I like to stir the pot with my brethren out there,” he said. “They only see the world one way, and I’m guilty of it, too. But there are times when we get a glimpse of what the world really looks like. I’m 58 years old and it just hit me this summer.”

What happens next? Triplett doesn’t have the solution, but he hopes candid conversations continue with everybody willing listeners.

“There was no risk for me,” he said. “This is not Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the anthem. This is me putting a sticker on my bag. That has meaning to me, because I have to have a different conversation with this son than my other sons.”

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