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Augusta: Less Corporate Presence This Year

As the controversy rages over Augusta National’s discriminatory all-male membership, corporate presence from the nation’s most elite firms will be understated at this year’s Masters golf tournament, according to the New York Times. Following club chair Hootie Johnson’s decision last year to eliminate corporate sponsorship, Citigroup will no longer send hundreds of its top insurance agents to attend and General Motors will no longer supply Cadillacs to transport the golfers. According to the Times, several prestigious companies including Southern Company, JP Morgan Chase, Coca-Cola, and American Express are expected to forego their usual lavish “corporate hospitality.” In some cases, CEOs like William B. Harrison Jr. of JP Morgan Chase and Kenneth I. Chenault of American Express may skip the tournament altogether. Last year, Chenault followed Citigroup chair Sanford I. Weill in calling on Augusta National to admit women members. “Without resolution on the women’s membership issue and the fact that there’s been increasing media attention, more and more companies are realizing that there’s a risk,” Jeff Bliss, president of the Virginia-based sports marketing firm Javelin Group told the Times. According to TSE Sports and Entertainment, a New York firm that arranges sporting event trips, attendance at the Masters declined 30 to 40 percent this year.

Despite calls by the NCWO not to broadcast the tournament, CBS and ESPN intend to cover the event, which will also air on foreign telecasts. Meanwhile, the federal lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Georgia on behalf of the NCWO and the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition challenging the newly passed city protest rules, is set to be heard this week.

This afternoon, Burk and Jane Smith, president of Business and Professional Women, will join Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and John Lewis (D-GA) as they announce the introduction of House Resolution “Fair Play: Equal Access in Membership,” which states that no Member of Congress or Member of the Administration should belong to a club that practices racial or sexual discrimination. A similar standard already exists for members of the federal judiciary.

NCWO plans to protest at the Masters tournament on April 12. Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal, will join Burk, Smith, and other national leaders at the protest. Buses will leave Washington, DC, at 6:30 a.m. on April 11 for an 11 a.m. rally in Augusta, GA.

TAKE ACTION Rally for Women's Equality & Augusta National Golf Club/Masters Tournament Protest

Media Resources: NY Times 3/30/03; Reuters 3/27/03; Washington Post 3/18/03; Rep. Maloney Press Release 3/27/03; Feminist Daily News

© Feminist Majority Foundation, publisher of Ms. magazine

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