Augusta battle moves into cyberspace
by Doug Ferguson
Nearly 30 companies whose chief executives are members at all-male Augusta National now belong to another exclusive club.
They are listed in the "Hall of Hypocrisy," the slogan on a Web site launched Tuesday night by Martha Burk and the National Council of Women's Organization in the latest attempt to pressure the golf club into inviting women to join.
The site - www.augustadiscriminates.org - made its debut about the time Burk appeared on HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel."
"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," Burk said.
As usual, she pulls no punches.
The main page displays logos of 32 groups with ties to Augusta. They include 29 corporations, Harvard University, CBS and its parent company, Viacom. CBS Sports has broadcast the Masters for the last 46 years.
Each corporate link shows 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, because its boss is an Augusta member, supports discrimination.
"They ask for support from women as investors, employees, purchasers," the entry says. "But 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."
Burk said the site was aimed at consumers, and the timing of the launch was no accident.
"We're in the middle of the holiday buying season," she said. "The power of the marketplace will be strong, and consumers will make informed decisions."
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 controversy over the male-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.
The next target for the Web site 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.