Phil Should Keep Talking

In General Interest by Jonathan Tasini1 Comment

When Phil Mickelson whined the other day that his taxes were too high, I tweeted “Mickelson whining abt paying higher taxes, w $47.8 million in earnings. Greedy bastard. How abt work a hard job?” Apparently, the heat was a bit too much for him from other quarters and so now he’s apologizing about speaking up. Bad move.

At first he had said:

“I’m not going to jump the gun and do it right away,” he said after carding a six-under-par 66 to finish in a 10-way tie for 37th, “but there are going to be some drastic changes for me because I happen to be in that zone that has been targeted both federally and by the state. And, you know, it doesn’t work for me right now. So I’m going to have to make some changes.”


Mickelson, the reigning champion at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, has more than $67 million in career earnings since turning professional in 1992. Last year, he was ranked by Forbes magazine as the seventh highest-paid athlete, with $47.8 million in earnings, including $43 million in endorsements.

“If you add up all the federal and you look at the disability and the unemployment and the Social Security and state, my tax rate is 62, 63 percent,” Mickelson said. “So I’ve got to make some decisions on what to do.”

It was an entirely legitimate position to take — even if it showed how clueless and self-centered a guy who flies in private planes can be.

Now, he says:

“Finances and taxes are a personal matter, and I should not have made my opinions on them public,” Mickelson said in a statement released late Monday night. “I apologize to those I have upset or insulted, and assure you I intend to not let it happen again.”

Clearly, his close advisors called him up and said, “dude, there are a lot of average people who play golf and watch golf who barely get by. They buy the products we get money to endorse. So, shut up”. OK, maybe it didn’t go exactly like that but you get the picture.

See, I think that’s a very big mistake. For too long, sports figures have refused to speak up about important issues. Sure, they do safe things like support cancer research. But, nothing controversial — because their agents and business managers are always watching out for the image, for the endorsements dollars that roll in, which they get a cut of.

But, these guys should speak up. Can you imagine how many children and slave workers would have been spared misery had Michael Jordan spoken up about labor conditions in Nike’s manufacturing plants in China?

I happen to think what Mickelson said was pathetic. But, he should not be silenced. It’s a bad precedent. Sometimes public figures are going to say things I, and others, don’t like. But, the alternative I think is much worse.

Hey, Phil, if you hate paying higher taxes on the millions you make, I’d be willing to find you a job cleaning out bed pans at a hospital. Tax rates are really low on those wages!



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