The Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters, is being accused of discrimination by numerous women’s organizations including the National Council of Women’s Organizations.
The Polling Company of Washington and Women Trend released the results of a national poll conducted about the controversy surrounding Augusta National Nov. 13.
According to information released by the Associated Press, the poll reported that 60 percent of the 800 people surveyed said William “Hootie” Johnson and Augusta National should stay with its current memberships policies, which do not allow female golfers in the club.
The controversy with the golf club began in June when Martha Burk, chairman of the NCWO, wrote a letter addressed to Johnson.
The NCWO is the oldest and largest coalition of women’s groups in the United States. It has 160 member organizations under its umbrella.
On June 12 Burk wrote, “We know that Augusta National and the sponsors of the Masters do not want to be viewed as entities that tolerate discrimination against any group, including women.
We urge you to review your policies and practices in this regard, and open your membership to women now, so that this is not an issue when the tournament is staged next year.”
Johnson responded in a letter to the organization on July 8 saying,
“Augusta National Golf Club is a distinctively private club and as such cannot talk about its membership and practices with those outside the organization…I have found your letter’s several references to discrimination, allusions to the sponsors and your setting of deadlines to be offensive and coercive.”
One of the concerns that NCWO has with Johnson and Augusta National is the fact that no woman has been invited to join since 1932, when the club was formed, according to the letter written to Johnson from Burk.
Another concern is that the Masters is being hosted by a club accused of discriminating against women. Augusta National was unavailable for comment.
“I think any kind of discrimination is wrong. However, a private club has the right to get together and meet or the purpose of associating with the members of their choice,” said Marvin Green, the head coach of FAMU’s golf team.
“They (Augusta National) are very particular about who they pick to join the club,” he added.
Green also said that a private club can be compared to a Greek organization that only targets specific members. They are not discriminating, he said, they just want certain members in the organization, just like there are female organizations and male organizations.
“It was almost as if (discrimination) is being used against them because they hold a public golf tournament. I think the response (to the accusations) would be different if the subject was approached differently,” Green said.
The NCWO has also written letters to major sponsors of the events such as Coca Cola, General Motors and IBM.
The organization sent letters to the CBS headquarters asking them not to broadcast the event because of Augusta’s exclusion of women.
CBS responded and said they would continue to broadcast the Masters.
“It’s not just about golf, it is about fairness to all,” Burk said. ” I think ordinary individuals who don’t even play golf (especially student groups) can play a very important role in this issue.”
An editorial published in the New York Times suggested that Tiger Woods “skip” next year’s masters as a protest against sexism. Woods said that he agrees that women should be allowed in the club, but that he is an honorary member and has no voting rights in the matter.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson released a statement saying he is disappointed that the New York Times editorial specifically picked out Woods to protest the Masters. Jackson and the Rainbow/PUSH coalition plan to protest the Masters if there is no woman allowed in the club by April of 2003.
The controversy between the Augusta National and NCWO has caused not only golf fans, but also other sports fans to pay more attention to golf.
“Of course women should be allowed to join (Augusta National),” said Glenn Gibson Jr., 22, a senior computer information systems student, from East Point, Ga. “But it is unfair to pressure Tiger into standing up for minorities and women, just because he is a minority. All the top players should have been asked to stand up for women, not just one player.”