Augusta National golf club has never admitted a woman member it its history, but that gender discrimination policy is being put to the test this week. IBM, a sponsor of The Masters golf tournament which Augusta National is hosting, has a female chief executive – Virginia Rometty. (IBM’s prior four male CEOs were all given honorary membership.) Rometty is expected to be at Augusta National today, and media reports are asking whether she’ll be allowed to don the famous green jacket, which is traditionally worn only by club members and Masters champions.
Both President Obama and Mitt Romney have issued statements indicating their disagreement with the club’s policy. Meanwhile, club chairman Billy Payne insists that Augusta will decide for itself whom to allow in its ranks.
The golf writer for the New York Times, Karen Crouse, weighed into the controversy yesterday, telling GOLF.com in an interview that she would like to use her influence to bring about a change:
“If it were left to me, which it seldom is in the power structure of writer versus editor, I’d probably not come cover this event again until there is a woman member,” Crouse said Thursday. “More and more, the lack of a woman member is just a blue elephant in the room.” [...]
“I love the [Masters] tournament for the reasons the players do — the course is beautiful, the history is abundant,” Crouse said. “But I find it harder and harder to get past one thing that’s missing. [PGA Tour commissioner] Tim Finchem is not making a stand. High-ranking players with daughters are not willing to talk about it. Somebody has to make a stand. Why not me in my own little way?”
Crouse’s willingness to speak out about a discriminatory policy that affects her personally didn’t go over well with her employer. The New York Times’ sports editor Joe Sexton admonished her publicly:
Contacted by The Associated Press, New York Times sports editor Joe Sexton said the comments were, “completely inappropriate and she has been spoken to.”
Crouse deserves credit for being willing to stake a principled position on the issue, despite knowing it would anger her male colleagues and the existing power structure. As Alyssa Rosenberg has previously observed, women reporters are often subjected to double standards that devalue their opinions.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) weighs in with his criticism on Twitter:
Don’t you think it’s time Augusta National joined the 21st century – or the 20th – and allowed women members?
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) April 6, 2012
South Carolina Republican Gov. Nikki Haley also voiced opposition to the gender discrimination at Augusta National:
— Chris Donovan (@chrisdonovannbc) April 6, 2012