Greg Cote

Welcome to an America where a golfer is vilified for playing a round with the president | Opinion

During Easter weekend, a professional athlete played a round of golf with the president of the United States and a prominent conservative radio host. There, in the official White House photo, standing in between President Donald Trump and Rush Limbaugh, is a smiling Lexi Thompson, the LPGA star from Coral Springs, an hour north of Miami.

The negative reaction, the vitriol — what she calls “the hurtful things being said to me lately” — has chased her off social media.

I love my country.

I hate what my country has become.

And there is no escape from it anymore, not even in sports, which used to be sort of a safe haven where we could go to get away from reality for a minute.

Please understand what has happened to us as a nation is bipartisan. It takes two sides for there to be a fight, for polarization to happen.

It hurts to see and hear the enraged anger toward the media and some of the ugly chanting that we have seen on TV from some of the folks attending Trump rallies.

It also hurts that a 24-year-old woman cannot play a round of golf with the president at his course in West Palm Beach, at his invitation, without having garbage thrown at her on social media. The round of golf included no political nor other comment by Thompson, by the way. The reaction was simply to the implied support of the president.

We were all American, once. Now it’s us or them, one side hating the other.

It’s fine to pick a party, an ideology. That’s politics. And in the spirit of transparency I’ll tell you I am not a Trump supporter. You have every right to be if you choose. Why has it reached the point where both sides demonize the other? Our discourse has lost all civility. Middle ground has disappeared.

Forget for a second who’s in the White House. This is on us. We the people. We need to be bigger than whomever the president happens to be.

Thompson, 24, already has won 10 LPGA tour events including one major. She’s a rising star. A local girl made good. But now she’s embroiled in controversy ... because she played golf with the president?

It used to be championship teams were honored with a White House visit. Now it has become a political statement whether a team goes.

Nick Bosa, the newly drafted San Francisco 49ers defensive star from Fort Lauderdale’s St. Thomas Aquinas High, also got caught up in the politics of the New America.

In 2016 he tweeted that Colin Kaepernick was a “clown” for kneeling during the national anthem to protest social injustices. Recently he erased that and other pro-Trump tweets because he rightly figured he would be drafted second overall by San Francisco, a liberal-leaning city.

That’s a twice-sad story right there.

It’s sad because so many on the Trump side have wrongly turned Kaepernick’s heartfelt cause into something un-American (when social protest is pretty much one of the most American things going, from the Boston Tea Party on).

It’s also sad because of what Bosa feared from the other side — that he would be viewed negatively, perhaps even booed, by anti-Trump 49ers fans.

Because everything is politics now. Sports are no longer insulated.

This is not the most divided America has ever been.

Not when we’ve had a Civil War.

Not when we’ve had slavery and systematic, legislated segregation.

Heck I remember during the Richard Nixon presidency, in my formative years, when it seemed half the country was protesting the Vietnam War and half the country was protesting the protesters with “Love It Or Leave It” bumper stickers.

We are there again. Divided. Fighting. Hitting each other with rights and lefts.

When pro-Trump people are screaming at reporters for doing their jobs and anti-Trump folks are screaming at a golfer for her round with the president, we are there again.

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