Phil Mickelson regrets airing opinion on taxes


Phil Mickelson regrets airing opinion on taxes

SAN DIEGO (AP) Phil Mickelson is talking more about how much he pays in taxes than how many fairways he hits off the tee.

Mickelson, regarded as the ``People's Choice'' for his connection with fans, put his popularity on the line with polarizing comments about how much he has to pay in state and federal taxes. The four-time major champion said it might lead to ``drastic changes,'' such as moving from his native California, and that it already caused him to pull out of the San Diego Padres' new ownership group.

His only regret was not keeping his opinion to himself.

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

Mickelson first made a cryptic reference to ``what's gone on the last few months politically'' during a conference call two weeks ago for the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, where he won last year for his 40th career PGA Tour title. After his final round Sunday at the Humana Challenge, he was asked what he meant.

``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 it doesn't work for me right now,'' he said. ``So I'm going to have to make some changes.''

Mickelson said the new federal tax rate, and California voting for Proposition 30 to increase taxes on the earnings over $250,000, contributed to total taxes that tap into more than 60 percent of his income.

Golf Digest magazine, in its annual survey of top earners in the sports, said Mickelson made just over $45 million last year on and off the golf course.

The response to Mickelson's opinions on taxes ranged from mocking a guy who has become a multimillionaire by playing golf to support for having such a high tax rate and not being afraid to speak his mind.

A majority of PGA Tour players live in Florida and others in Texas, two states that have no state income tax. Tiger Woods grew up in Southern California and played two years at Stanford. He was a California kid when he won an unprecedented three straight U.S. Amateur titles, but when he made his professional debut in Milwaukee a week later, he was listed as being from Orlando, Fla.

``I moved out of here back in `96 for that reason,'' Woods said Tuesday.

``I enjoy Florida, but also I understand what he was - I think - trying to say,'' Woods said of the Mickelson comments. ``I think he'll probably explain it better and in a little more detail.''

Mickelson deflected questions at the Humana Challenge by saying he would prefer to elaborate at his news conference at Torrey Pines.

That couldn't wait.

``I know I have my usual pre-tournament press conference scheduled this week but I felt I needed to address the comments I made following the Humana Challenge now,'' Mickelson said in his statement. ``I absolutely love what I do. I love and appreciate the game of golf and the people who surround it. I'm as motivated as I've ever been to work on my game, to compete and to win championships.

``Right now, I'm like many Americans who are trying to understand the new tax laws. I've been learning a lot over the last few months and talking with people who are trying to help me make intelligent and informed decisions. I certainly don't have a definitive plan at this time, but like everyone else I want to make decisions that are best for my future and my family.''

Mickelson's news conference Wednesday will come after his pro-am round in the Farmers Insurance Open, a tournament he first won 20 years ago.

``He definitely showed a lack of sympathy for the plight of a lot of people, unemployed and all that sort of stuff,'' Geoff Ogilvy said. ``But everything is relative. He's verbalized when he's thinking, and you shouldn't get in trouble for verbalizing what you're thinking.''

Texas Gov. Rick Perry even weighed in with this tweet: ``Hey Phil....Texas is home to liberty and low taxes...we would love to have you as well!!''

Mickelson is among the most famous athletes to come out of San Diego. He went to school at Arizona State and lived in Scottsdale, Ariz., for the first decade of his career until moving back home to Rancho Santa Fe.

He was part of the group that bought the Padres, saying that it would be a ``significant investment'' for him but that he saw it as a great opportunity to get involved in his hometown. Asked if the tax changes were why he withdrew, Mickelson said, ``Absolutely.''

Mickelson has earned just under $70 million in PGA Tour earnings for his career, which doesn't include corporate endorsements (Callaway, Barclays, Rolex) or his golf course design company, which is thriving in China.

In November, California voters approved Proposition 30, the first statewide tax increase since 2004. It raises the rate on earnings over $250,000 for seven years.

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

The reaction to Mickelson's comments from the California legislature split along party lines, with Republicans saying they expect more high-earners to follow and Democrats saying multimillionaires can afford to pay more.

``You know, it's sad,'' said Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare. ``And I think it'll be the first of many.''

Democrats said there is no evidence in the U.S. or California of mass departures in the wake of higher taxes on the wealthy. State Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, called Mickelson ``the exception rather than the rule.''

This is not the first time Mickelson's opinions have brought him attention. Ten years ago, he came to Torrey Pines and apologized for Woods for saying in magazine article that the world's No. 1 player was using inferior equipment.

These comments on paying taxes were sure to resonate with far more people.

Ogilvy recently moved from San Diego County to Scottsdale, though his reason was more about golf than taxes. He bought a home in Del Mar and lived with his wife and three kids for about four years, knowing there were other states he could live with lower tax rates.

``It's a little bit of one negative to a lot of positives,'' Ogilvy said. ``If the tax rate in California was the same as it was in Texas, half the tour would live here. The lifestyle is impressive. The climate is impressive. But even the ones who grow up here move away.''


Juliet Williams and Don Thompson in Sacramento contributed to this story.

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Eric Thames appeared on the Korean 'Masked Singer,' because of course he did

Eric Thames appeared on the Korean 'Masked Singer,' because of course he did

Eric Thames is a fun-loving, weight-lifting, beard-growing, truck-driving, yoga-practicing, Avengers-obsessed potpourri of a man. Oh yeah, and he plays first base for the Washington Nationals.

There are few things that Thames can’t do. So it should come as no surprise that the left-handed slugger once emerged as a surprise contestant on the South Korean equivalent of “The Masked Singer” after spending three years in the Korea Baseball Organization.

Appearing on “The King of Mask Singer” last offseason, Thames busted out his rendition of Stevie Wonder's “Isn't She Lovely” before singing — in only slightly less-than-perfect Korean — the song “Americano” originally released by Korean duo 10cm.

He sat down with NBC Sports Washington’s Todd Dybas for the Nationals Talk podcast and reflected on his moment in the spotlight.

“Preparing for that was definitely uncomfortable, to say the least,” Thames said. “I’m not afraid of being uncomfortable…but I had to go to a singing coach. He taught me different techniques about your posture, your breathing — like diaphragm breathing, I didn’t know what any of that was. But it’s definitely a unique experience.

“I was battling a K-pop guy who could belt notes like no other so I’m there just like I’m singing karaoke, [voice] cracking, but it was fun.”

The performance only added to Thames’ well-established Korean fame. He won MVP as a member of the KBO’s NC Dinos in 2015 after hitting 40 home runs, stealing 40 bases and winning the league batting title with a .381 average. His success overseas helped him land a three-year, $16 million deal with the Milwaukee Brewers that stretched until this winter.


Thames now joins a Nationals roster that rode an exuberant clubhouse culture all the way to a World Series title. With Gerardo Parra, the face of that clubhouse personality, having departed for Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league, there’s an opening for a player such as Thames to inject the energy into the clubhouse that it rallied around last season.

While Thames doesn’t expect to be singing his way into endearing himself to his teammates, he looks back on his performance as a fun experience.

“We recorded it and I had to wait probably like 25 days, so I couldn’t say anything. I had to keep it a secret,” Thames said. “I remember I flew with my buddy to London and we’re at the airport, getting on the shuttle, going to the hotel and he’s like, ‘Hey dude, the thing’s going to air in like 20 minutes,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, here we go.’ Sure enough it aired and my phone blew up. All my friends like, ‘Ahh, I didn’t know.’ It was cool.”

Even though Thames is someone who thrives in situations that make him uncomfortable, pulling off that mask and seeing the cheering audience around him was a moment he won’t soon forget.

“It was easier with the mask on,” Thames said. “It’s like singing in the dark. Nobody can see you, but when the mask is off it’s like all right, just let it all hang out there.”

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Public player spats leave MLB feeling similar to the NBA

Public player spats leave MLB feeling similar to the NBA

Baseball has long hunted for a better way into the headlines, some way to breakthrough and seem more hip or at least modestly up to date.

One of its digital arms created Cut4 almost a decade ago to spice up its social media brand. Lighter content, GIFs, campiness, anything but the rigid archaicness long associated with the game. Baseball wants to retain, but put to the back, the crowd who remembers Harmon Killebrew either through seeing him once upon a time or watching black-and-white Home Run Derby replays on ESPN decades ago. The league is desperate for a feel which resonates with the coming fan, not the graying one.

What Major League Baseball lacked, the NBA retained organically. Personality. Individual marketing. A crossover between apparel and personal brands so expansive, room existed for bit players to grow -- just ask Nick Young. Single players spoke their minds often, at times in front of the camera, others on social media. The freedom of expression led to another free: free headlines. From Kevin Durant’s burner account to Joel Embiid’s perpetual Twitter smack, the NBA’s marketing ran itself.

The league was about chatter, and blips and combative public words, which baseball had never been about. In an attempt to modernize, Major League Baseball thrusted out a pre-2019 season marketing campaign based on “letting the kids play.” A central figure in the main commercial was young Houston star Alex Bregman, who leaned into his mic to bust up the generic statement making going on around him. “We’re going to win this World Series and the next one,” Bregman said with a smile. Seven months after the commercial’s release, Bregman apologized for carrying his bat to first base in the World Series.

Baseball’s offseason scandal did do one thing: it produced headlines which led to the league finally drawing from its inner NBA. On camera, from coast to coast, players called out other players. Cody Bellinger sniffed at the Astros, Nick Markakis threatened them, Howie Kendrick flatly condemned them. “If you cheat, you cheat,” he said.

Houston’s Carlos Correa pivoted to take many of the complainers to task. He began his personal pushback on MLB Network, of all places, before expanding to a discussion with local Houston writers. He contended many players didn’t know what they were talking about. Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki was among his targets.

Since then, baseball has been able to continue with the NBA’s blueprint. The outside-of-the-field griping leads to intrigue about actual play (massive player movement in that league also helps in a way baseball will never reach). In this case, when the Astros took the field, what would happen?

They were booed. Hard. It was predictable. The first game at their shared facility in West Palm Beach included vocal disdain mostly for players fans likely don’t know. But, the lineup of minor-leaguers didn’t matter that first day. The concern was to target the big, orange H in all its forms. Baseballs began to hit Astros players -- seven in five games. Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard petulantly made Houston leadoff man George Springer wait among boos before throwing the first pitch.

This is easy for fans. Nothing is subjective. There is no wonder or counter argument like those which existed in the steroid era. The Astros are the convicted cheaters, the enemy, plain as day. 

Which helps. Not the path, no one would recommend that. However, a non-New York enemy -- especially one filled with talent in a large market -- helps MLB to what it can’t produce on its own because the games or season are too long. A clear-cut bad guy will be rolling town to town in 2020, giving both fans and opposition opportunity to express their thoughts. 

Social media will buzz. Individuals will have another round of fresh questions each time the Astros touchdown at a new airport. The cheaters are here, what do you think? And out of this black cloud will come further comments, verbal spats which were previously reserved for the clubhouse or group text chains. They are in the open now, which leaves MLB feeling similar to its most dialed-in three-letter brethren, which was a goal all along. Though the league would have preferred a different path to get there.

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