Thursday, April 5, 2012

Bigotry Against Women Raises Its Ugly Head Again At August National Golf Club and The Masters

A Place Where Many (But Not All Thankfully) Conservatives Will Fit Right In

The most prestigious golf tournament in the world (maybe the most prestigious single sporting event in the world) is being played this week at the August National Golf Club. This is a private club and the tournament is a private affair, by invitation or qualification only.  They have the right of course to set their own membership rules and requirements as any private club can.

But because The Masters is such a public event, and because it gets millions of dollars from commercial sponsors its practices can and should come under public scrutiny.  In the long ago past the tournament did everything it could to prevent African American players from competing, but that type of discrimination finally ended.  Now the one remaining area in which the club discriminates is against women.  The club will not admit women as members.

The issue came up several years ago, and for a while the club agreed to forego sponsors so that companies that supported the tournament and indirectly supported the policy of discrimination would not be targeted.  That pressure relaxed, as the populace had better things to worry about than whether or not a pompous, bigoted group of very rich, arrogant men were preventing women from joining their club. 

But the issue has now resurfaced again.  The policy of the club is to invite and accept as members the CEO’s of the companies that sponsor the tournament.  This has placed the club’s bigotry and prejudice back in the news.

The matter is back in the spotlight with the Masters set to begin Thursday. In January, IBM named Virginia ("Ginni") Rometty as its new president and CEO. IBM is a Masters sponsor. The past four CEOs of IBM have been members of Augusta National.

The club was quizzed about its policies  and the answer is that what the club does with respect to membership is not anyone else’s business.

Bily Payne - Chairman of Augusta
National Golf Club

Funny - He Doesn't Look Like
a Bigot

Payne was asked why he wouldn't address the matter of a potential membership for Rometty?

"I guess two reasons," he said. "No.1, we don't talk about our private deliberations. No. 2, we especially don't talk about them when a named candidate is a part of the question."

To her credit, one reporter pressed the issue, making it personal for Mr. Payne who is the head of the club.

But the questions kept coming, including one from Karen Crouse of the New York Times.

She asked him, as a grandfather, what he would say to his granddaughters about the club having no women members.

"Once again, though expressed quite artfully, I think that's a question that deals with membership," Payne said.

Crouse said it was a "kitchen table, personal" question.

"Well my conversations with my granddaughters are also personal," Payne said in a news conference room packed with media and club members in green jackets.

It is not difficult to imagine what that conversation between Mr. Payne and his granddaughters would be like, he would of course try to educate them about why as women they are second class citizens, and not to be accorded the same rights as the greatly superior gender, men.    And for anyone who thinks that would be a difficult conversation for Mr. Payne to have, do not worry.  People who hold bigoted and hateful views of women (or anyone else) have no difficulty in justifying their position.

And no, no one should condemn the golfers for playing in this tournament.  Professional golf is their job, fighting bigotry and discrimination, well, that’s the job for the rest of us. 


  1. "fighting bigotry and discrimination, well, that’s the job for the rest of us."

    Excuse me, did I read that correctly? If I am a "professional" farmer, do I get a free pass on the "bigotry and discrimination" thing? Perhaps I misunderstand, but I think it's every persons "JOB" to enhance fairness and equality, even "professional" athletes.

  2. Dear Larry:

    I believe that was sarcasm from the esteemed DPE.


  3. These are both good comments and a point of clarification is needed here.

    When this issue first arose several years ago, action by the players and the sponsors could have ended the Augusta National Club’s policy of discrimination. Had the sponsors withdrew and had the golfers walked away from the tournament the Club would have immediately changed its policy. In fact, at the time Tiger Woods was at the height of his popularity and influence and had Mr. Woods just walked away things would have changed.

    But to his shame Mr. Woods declined to do so (we now know a bit more about him as a person which explains why he did not withdraw from the tournament) and the sponsors have returned to the Master’s with no negative impact on their sales and their image. Time has a way of inducing amnesia, as sponsors are also returning to Rush Limbaugh.

    The PGA long ago banned tournaments at any club that discriminates, but the Master’s is not a PGA event and so it is powerless to do anything here. So my point was in part sarcasm, that the professional golfers who compete in the Master’s do have an obligation to fight discrimination. But no one should expect them to do it alone. All of us have that obligation.

    This Forum is trying to fulfill its obligations in that regard by holding the horrendous practice of discrimination by Augusta National up to ridicule and derision.
    It's what we do.