Womens Group Sets Up Hall of Hypocrisy on Web

By Associated PressDecember 18, 2002, 5:00 pm
The group pushing for female members at Augusta National took its battle into cyberspace Tuesday with a Web site that vilifies corporations whose chief executives belong to the golf club.
 
''We think it is important for women to know that some of America's largest corporations maintain a double standard when it comes to sex discrimination,'' said Martha Burk, head of the National Council of Women's Organizations.
 
The site -- www.augustadiscriminates.org -- officially was to go online Tuesday night to coincide with Burk's appearance on HBO's ''Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.''
 
The main page, headlined ''Hall of Hypocrisy,'' will display logos of corporations with ties to Augusta.
 
Each corporate link will show a photo of the chairman or CEO, the company's diversity statement if it has one, and the goods and services it provides. A headline proclaims that the company supports discrimination.
 
''Their corporation is led by a man who shows his contempt for women every day that he continues as a member of Augusta National Golf Club,'' each entry says.
 
Augusta National spokesman Glenn Greenspan said the site ''is simply not news'' because it is the work of a Washington activist group.
 
''It's political activism 101,'' he said.
 
It's not the only Web site devoted to the controversy.
 
A North Carolina man two weeks ago launched www.golfersforarealcause.org with two objectives -- to raise money for breast cancer research, and to divert attention from Burk.
 
Also, a Florida man built www.theburkstopshere.com as a collection of Web sites to protest Burk and her efforts to get Augusta National to admit a female member.
 
Burk said it took five people several days to pull together information about the various corporations, including their positions on diversity and contact information.
 
''I hope that consumers will let these people know how they feel about the double standards, and I hope they will make informed decisions,'' she said.
 
''The timing is not accidental. We're in the middle of the holiday buying season. The power of the marketplace will be strong, and consumers will make informed decisions.''
 
The controversy over the men-only membership at the home of the Masters already has resulted in club chairman Hootie Johnson's dropping television sponsors from next year's tournament.
 
Former CBS executive Thomas Wyman resigned his club membership two weeks ago, while Treasury Secretary nominee John Snow resigned from Augusta so it would not be an issue during his confirmation hearings.
 
Otherwise, the debate is at a standstill.
 
Johnson said in an interview last month that there was no chance Augusta National would invite a woman to join before the Masters in April and that he saw nothing wrong with a single-gender organization.
 
Demonstrations outside the gates of Augusta during the Masters appear inevitable, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson of the PUSH/Rainbow Coalition offered to lead the charge.
 
Burk said the primary goal of her group's Web site is to put pressure on CEOs.
 
''They should be uncomfortable,'' she said. ''They're not in the business of defending sex discrimination for a few guys at Augusta. They're in the business of selling goods and services. I hope their board of directors take a look at what this is doing to their image.
 
''There is enough corporate scandals in the financial sector,'' Burk said. ''They don't need a social scandal, and that's exactly what this is.''
 
Burk also received support from Jane Smith, chief executive of Business and Professional Women/USA.
 
''... CEOs who belong to Augusta National Golf Club may also be lax in supporting corporate policies to pay women fairly and promote women in equal numbers with men,'' said Smith, an NCWO member.
 
Viacom, the parent company of CBS, also was on the main page. Burk claims CBS is underwriting discrimination by agreeing to broadcast the Masters.
 
The next Web target is the PGA Tour.
 
Burk said the tour, which has a policy of not going to golf courses that discriminate, is setting a double standard by recognizing the Masters as an official tournament. She plans to add its official sponsors to her list and to showcase the tour's board of directors.
 
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