ExxonMobil Shareholders Teed Off Over Masters Sponsorship
A group of ExxonMobil shareholders has filed a resolution charging Exxon with discrimination for sponsoring the annual Masters golf tournament. The 70th Masters, which took place last weekend, is always held at the exclusive all-male Augusta National Golf Club. The resolution asserts that ExxonMobil’s sponsorship of the event violates company anti-discrimination policy, and calls for management to provide detailed reports of all expenses paid to venues that discriminate against women.
The resolution’s lead filer is Martha Burk, director of the Corporate Accountability Project at the National Council of Women’s Organizations and Money Editor of Ms. magazine, who will bring the proposal before stockholders at a meeting next month in Dallas. Burk has led the protest against Augusta National since 2002, when she urged the PGA Tour, which sanctions but does not own or sponsor the Masters, to distance itself from the tournament. After Burk and other women’s leaders led a protest at the 2003 Masters, CBS broadcast the event with no commercial sponsorship for two years in a row (see Ms. magazine, Summer 2003). Last year, only one of the former sponsors, IBM, returned, joined by ExxonMobil and AT&T, two companies whose top executives are members of Augusta National.
The PGA announced in 1990 that it would not hold future tournaments at clubs that discriminate on the basis of race or sex after a controversy erupted regarding the site of that year’s PGA Tour, Shoal Creek Golf Club in Alabama, which at the time barred African-American members. However, the Masters has continued to be held at the all-male Augusta, with the sanction of the PGA. "The message that the business leaders of the largest corporations in the world are sending is that gender discrimination is not as serious as racial discrimination," Burk said in an interview with Ms. magazine.