Burk Calls for CEO Resignations

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ATLANTA (AP) -- Martha Burk called on members of the Augusta National Golf Club Thursday to resign in protest against their chairman, Hootie Johnson, if they believe women should be allowed in.
 
'We will no longer bother to rebut Augusta National Incorporated's paid media consultant or its chairman in defending their flagrant sex discrimination,' said Burk, the chair of the National Council of Women's Organizations, at Thursday's news conference. 'We turn now to concentrating of the stakeholders -- the corporate CEOs who have the power as members.'
 
Burk was backed by the National Organization for Women and the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition along with other supporters who stood in bitter cold at the Martin Luther King Center.
 
Her announcement was a response to Johnson saying Wednesday his members stand solidly behind a policy that keeps women out of the club. Burk said she didn't buy his claim.
 
'If they believe Augusta National is right to continue excluding women, then I challenge them to hold a news conference and tell us publicly,' she said. 'If they do not agree with this policy, they must resign their memberships. ... The choice is to stand up and support Hootie, or stand down.'
 
Burk and her supporters said they defend the rights of private organizations, but added that the golf club is exempt from those rights because it is a for-profit club that uses public resources. She accused the CEOs in the club of being hypocrites by promoting diversity in the work force but excluding women from their golf club.
 
'This particular group of stakeholders in Augusta National Incorporated hold up to a billion dollars in government and military contracts, meaning tax dollars fill their coffers,' she said. 'Yet these corporate titans maintain memberships in an organization that shuts out half of the taxpayers that foot the bill.'
 
Burk said a federal appeal court''s decision to refuse to overrule the Augusta sheriff's authority to deny Burk a permit to protest at the main gate was a setback, but she won't give up easily.
 
A meeting with Sheriff Ronald Strength has been scheduled for Friday to decide where protest groups may picket during the tournament Saturday, Burk said.
 
Burk currently is slotted for a 5.1-acre weedy lot chosen by the sheriff and owned by Augusta National. She calls it 'the pit,' and she hasn't ruled out sending a handful of protesters to the gate.
 
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, in a teleconference from Chicago Thursday, said ministers from around Georgia are organizing members of their congregations to be in Augusta on Saturday morning at a church, still to be chosen, near the country club.
 
He said his group will stand arm-and-arm with Martha Burk's protesters at the event.
 
'The real issue is the PGA (Tour) should not in fact support the Masters being held in Augusta so long as it is gender discriminatory,' Jackson said. 'Just as the PGA (Tour) should not participate in apartheid South Africa, they should not participate in gender apartheid in Augusta.'
 
Jackson had harsh words for Johnson.
 
'He is swimming upstream against history,' Jackson said, noting that women have been allowed in all levels of government and the judicial system. 'All of this controversy could be ended if Hootie joined this century.'
 
Jackson, who will not be at Saturday's protest, said the protest will be nonviolent, but the group plans to have its voice heard. If protesters are not allowed close enough to the event to make their point, they plan to intensify their action, he said.
 
'Plan B is arrest if plan A is denied,' Jackson said.
 
The recent developments haven't held back Burk, who said her plans to put a dent in the club's exclusionary policy surpasses this weekend's crowning of a champion.
 
She said consumers, especially women, should stop buying products from companies that have members in the club.
 
'Some people picket, and others protest with pocket books,' she said. 'Women aren't fools. They know when a corporation is marketing toward them.'
 
She even attributed the cancelation of Thursday's first round because of bad weather to female power.
 
'The goddess is watching over us,' she said.
 
Related Links:
  • 2003 Masters Tournament Mini-Site
  • Tournament Coverage
  • The Augusta National Membership Debate: A Chronology
     
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