By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
BENTON HARBOR — Whirlpool Corp. is getting some unwanted attention toward next year’s Senior PGA Championship.
A petition to change the venue of next year’s KitchenAid-sponsored Senior PGA has garnered more than 14,000 signatures as of Friday afternoon.
Petitioners have taken affront to the golf tournament because it is scheduled to be at Trump National Golf Club in Washington.
In a reference to presidential candidate and golf course owner Donald Trump, the online petition argues that “racism, sexism, Islamophobia and hatred are no way to sell appliances.”
KitchenAid, a Whirlpool brand, sponsored the 2016 Senior PGA Championship during Memorial Day Weekend at The Golf Club at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor.
It was announced in May – the day before the tournament – that Harbor Shores will continue to host the event in even years through 2024. KitchenAid, which has been a presenting sponsor of the tournament since 2011, is now the title sponsor.
Petitioners did not mention any issues with the Senior PGA being held in Benton Harbor, but were adamantly against the use of Trump’s course in Washington. The online petition specifically addresses Whirlpool and its CEO, Jeff Fettig.
Whirlpool sent out a statement Friday regarding the tournament’s venue next year. According to the news release, Whirlpool has a contract with the PGA of America that does not allow the appliance maker to select the location of the championship the years where it is not played at Harbor Shores.
Jeff Noel, vice president of Communications and Public Affairs at Whirlpool, said they notified the PGA of their concern about the impact of hosting a tournament at a location that is closely aligned to any political figure of any party.
“They’ve got no choice. We expressed our concerns back in February,” Noel said. “The PGA has a contract and an obligation. Their decision was made before Mr. Trump announced his intentions to run for office.”
The online petition was started by Care2, a self-described “network of 30 million citizen activists.”
The organization claims a previous petition that collected 95,000 signatures persuaded the PGA to move its World Championship of Golf tournament from the Trump National Doral in Miami to a course outside Mexico City.
However, a Business Insider article published June 1 stated Trump signed a 10-year extension in 2013 to host the tournament – in a deal that included an out-clause for the PGA Tour. The clause allowed the PGA to change course if the tournament failed to land a new sponsor after Cadillac chose not to renew its deal.
Speculation has been that the event was having trouble landing a new sponsor because few companies could afford to sponsor the event, and the companies that could afford it didn’t want to be associated with Trump.