CBS yesterday promptly denied a request from the National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO) to refrain from broadcasting the 2003 Masters golf tournament because of the discriminatory policies of the club that owns and operates the event, the Augusta National Golf Club. Augusta National excludes women from its membership, a policy that NCWO – which represents six million members of more than 100 women’s organizations including the Feminist Majority – has been working to change. However, the club has refused to open its membership to women, even canceling corporate sponsorship of the 2003 tournament and opting instead to pay for all the television coverage, without commercials, themselves.
The NCWO’s letter to CBS asked the station to suspend broadcasting of the Masters if the Club continues to refuse to admit women, stating that “the tournament is an event that is produced by and held at a facility owned by a for-profit corporation that is flaunting its practice of sex discrimination. In the year 2002, with women occupying prominent positions in every walk of life, it is astonishing that CBS would ever consider such a broadcast.”
The NCWO will continue its pressure on CBS while it seeks to influence the individual members of Augusta National. Although the Club keeps its membership private, there are an estimated 300 members, many who are prominent CEOs and businessmen from major US companies. Martha Burk, chair of the NCWO, told the Washington Post: “We want to ask [the members] how they can justify their memberships in light of their companies’ policies prohibiting any form of discrimination. We’d also like to know if shareholders are footing the bill for this.”
The news that CBS planned to broadcast the tournament as planned came on the heels of the news that a woman had qualified for a Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) Tour event for the first time ever. Suzy Whaley, a teaching professional golfer in Connecticut, is deciding whether or no she will compete in the event.