Womens Group Targets CBS

By Associated PressAugust 31, 2002, 4:00 pm
Now that the Masters has eliminated its television sponsors, the leader of a national women's group said Saturday she will urge CBS Sports to drop coverage of golf's most watched tournament until Augusta National has a female member.
Martha Burk, chairwoman of the National Council of Women's Organizations, said she will not give up the fight until the Masters fades away as a major championship or until the club admits a woman.
''We expect to have a conversation with CBS,'' Burk told The Associated Press. ''It will be about whether they want to broadcast an event, held in a venue that discriminates against half the population, and what kind of statement that makes about CBS as a network.''
CBS Sports has had a one-year deal since 1956 to televise the Masters, the highest-rated golf tournament.
CBS spokeswoman Leslie Anne Wade declined comment except to say that ''CBS will broadcast the Masters next year.''
Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson said Friday he was dropping the Masters' three television sponsors -- IBM, Coca-Cola and Citigroup -- to shield them from any controversy over the club's all-male membership.
''I think they're doing what they can to avoid having a woman member,'' Burk said. ''They're willing to pay a lot of money to continue to discriminate. That's what it comes down to.''
Burk predicted the Masters would ''either fade as a major tournament, or they're going to have to admit a women member.''
The financial agreement between the Masters and CBS Sports has been kept private, although the contract is different than other sports, or even other golf tournaments.
Even before Johnson's decision to eliminate commercials from next year's telecast, CBS could only show four minutes of advertising every hour.
In another example of Augusta's control over the broadcast, CBS golf analyst Gary McCord has not been part of the Masters coverage since 1994 because of glib comments he made about the course and the fans.
The Masters has never been a moneymaker for CBS with so little commercial time for sale, but it is valuable to the network because of the prestige and exposure it brings.
Without sponsors, the club likely will have to pay more out of its own pocket, although it still generates money from merchandise and foreign broadcast rights. Tickets are $125, about half the cost of other major championships.
Burk said she wrote to the three television sponsors, as well as to Cadillac, which supplies courtesy cars during the tournament but does not have advertising during the broadcast.
The NCWO has about 6 million members and represents about 160 groups.
''We never threatened, we did not mention a boycott or a picket,'' she said. ''We appealed to their own record and policies on sex discrimination.''
She said IBM replied it would continue its sponsorship, viewing the private club as separate from the Masters. She said Coca-Cola and Citigroup indicated only that that they were in discussions with Augusta National.
Burk said she was surprised by Johnson's decision to drop the sponsors.
''I knew something was going to happen,'' she said. ''What I expected was either they announce a woman member, or sponsors announce they were pulling their support. But I'm confident the sponsors gave him the kind of message that had to be given.''
The friction began in June when Burk sent Johnson a letter urging him to invite women to join Augusta National, which opened in 1933.
Johnson has said the club has no exclusionary policies. While women often play at Augusta National, the club has not had a female member in its 69-year history, and a black did not join until 1990.
After issuing a three-sentence reply to Burk that said Augusta membership policies are private, Johnson blasted her intentions in a three-page statement to the media in which he said the club would not be ''bullied'' into taking a female member.
Burk said she has received dozens of calls from women who are outraged that Augusta National has an all-male membership and have inquired about going to the next Masters.
She didn't say what was planned during the Masters, to be played April 10-13, only that ''cameras will have something to look at.''
If her group's pressure on CBS doesn't work, Burk said she would go after the employers of Augusta members. The club has about 300 members.
''We'll be in touch with the corporations they represent,'' she said. ''Who's underwriting the membership? How does that square with the companies' stated policies on discrimination? I think we would want consumers to know that situation.''
Burk said she already has asked the PGA Tour to no longer recognize the Masters as an official event. She said commissioner Tim Finchem wrote her Tuesday that the PGA Tour would continue to sanction the tournament.
''That was disappointing to me, coming from an entity that has clearly written policies against discrimination,'' Burk said. ''They're creating a double standard.''
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Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

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