Masters Sponsors Under Fire from Burk

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AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Martha Burk's not quite finished with Augusta National. The national women's group headed by Burk sent letters to the Masters' three television sponsors asking for details on their hiring, pay, and promotion of women.
 
Burk wants to make sure IBM, SBC Communications and Exxon Mobil aren't discriminating against female employees.
 
'All of these corporations have policies against underwriting discrimination, and all are in violation of those policies,' Burk said in a statement. 'It is incumbent on them to provide data proving that they in fact do not discriminate against women in their workplaces.'
 
Burk has demanded that Augusta National admit women since June 2002, when she sent chairman Hootie Johnson a letter asking him to open the private club's membership 'so that this is not an issue' at the Masters.
 
Johnson refused, saying women would be invited on the club's timetable and 'not at the point of a bayonet.'
 
Burk staged a protest during the 2003 tournament, but only about 50 people showed up.
 
After airing the Masters commercial-free the last two years to protect sponsors from protests, ads were restored for this year's telecast.
 
Burk didn't immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press on Thursday seeking further comment. Glenn Greenspan, a spokesman for Augusta National, declined comment.
 
Asked about female members during a news conference Wednesday, Johnson said, 'We've adopted a new policy. We don't talk about club matters, period.'
 
Burk, who is chair of the National Council of Women's Organizations, demanded meetings last spring with brokerage executives who are members of Augusta. They also asked women employed by the executives to come forward if they experienced discrimination. Citigroup chairman Sanford Weill, a club member, declined to meet with the NCWO.
 
Last week, four female financial consultants filed a discrimination lawsuit against Citigroup's Smith Barney division.
 
'Companies sponsoring the Masters golf tournament are associating themselves with a venue that openly and proudly discriminates against women, which sends a debilitating message to female employees,' said Cyrus Mehri, whose firm served as counsel in two of the largest race discrimination cases in history and is now working with the NCWO.
 
'If calls come in from women in these firms, we will go where the evidence leads us, as we did with Citigroup,' he said.
 
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