As Golf World Executive Editor Ron Sirak summed up in a column on Tuesday, Rory McIlroy is bound to upset one group of people, after being quoted in a recent interview saying he "feels more British than Irish" when discussing his cultural identity.
The Northern Ireland native wrote a letter Monday after the enormous public response, saying he hasn't made a decision about which country he would represent when golf makes its return to the Olympics in the in 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. But by then, the subject had already struck a nerve with the masses.
We asked our Facebook fans what they thought McIlroy should do, and also mined the comments of our partner blog GeoffShackelford.com, as well as Golf Digest's Twitter followers.
There's certainly mixed opinion, proving Sirak's point even further.
For instance, there is a group of people frustrated about this even being an issue:
Stephen Lowrie (from Facebook): I think Rory should be left to decide for himself. Personally I wouldn't blame him if he didn't play at all.
Elf (on GeoffShackelford.com): I dislike it when we try to force an identity on people, especially when we make it like there's a right or wrong choice. Identity, be it race (Tiger) or nationality (Rory), is by definition inherently personal, and not right or wrong.
Bruce Helbig (from Facebook): Given that golf doesn't need the Olympics and the Olympics don't need golf, it matters not one whit to me. Superfluous waste of energy debating something that silly. Just keep winning Rory and ignore as best you can this stuff.
SlimMonty (from GeoffShackelford.com): I am just wondering why he said anything and didn't dodge the question. Rio is 4 years away after all. He can be a bit clumsy with the press. Can't see him at the Irish Open this year.
But an athlete taking a stand? That's refresing for some:
"GolfFan" (from GeoffShackelford.com): Brave and inherently progressive political statement? Rory is the New Order.
One reader looks at other high-profile athletes, and calls this a mistake by Rory:
Danny McCann (from Facebook): Tiger and Michael Jordan have shown that picking sides on anything costs you fans. Rory will be hurt terribly by this. It isn't fair to focus on it.
Religion will always be among the most polarizing subjects, as evidenced throughout history. No different here:
Mark (from GeoffShackelford.com): Cutting to the heart of the matter I think some people in the Republic have an issue with a Northern Catholic declaring an affinity with Britain. Most Britons would recognize his dilemma and be happy enough to see him playing for Ireland (call us perverse but we like seeing Irish, Welsh and Scottish success).
@KnappsWagger from Twitter: The fact that @McIlroyRory has to write a letter about his religion and his heritage is a disappointing reminder of issues in Ireland.
JCA (from GeoffShackelford.com): The reaction, in the Republic of Ireland anyway, has been generally one of hurt I think. But one of the main arguments put forward is that because he played for the united NI/ROI team known, confusingly, as "Ireland" at both amateur and World Cup level that he should now declare for the ROI. But who was Rory supposed to play for at amateur/World Cup level? England, Scotland or Wales? It's a bizarre argument. ... It does seem like he has disappointed more people by (effectively) choosing GB over ROI than would have been the case had he done the opposite.
Neil Campbell (from Facebook): The amount of time and money the [Golfing Union of Ireland] put into Rory McIlroy and for him to play for Britain would be a disgrace.
Others can't see why this is an issue. It's a geographical debate, hard and simple:
Frank Chez: He's from Northern Ireland which remains a territory of Great Britain. Similar to if a Puerto Rican athlete would choose to represent the United States.
Tony Ibarra: He's not from Ireland, he's from Northern Ireland, part of Great Britain. How is there any question who he plays for?
This isn't the only time—and it won't be the last time—an athlete's "home" country has been a debate in regards to the Olympics. Most recently, Serge Ibaka plays professionally in the NBA as a forward for the Oklahoma City Thunder, and was born in the Republic of Congo, but decided he'd play for Spain in the 2012 Olympics, having established residency there playing professionally for a couple of years.
A possible solution? Have the International Olympic Committee sharpen its rules when it comes to which country an athlete can play for in the Olympics. But could you really tell an athlete which country they should feel the most allegiance toward? That'll open up a whole other can of worms.