So about three weeks ago the annual Masters Tournament was held in Augusta. This year, however, the tournament was surrounded by an additional layer of controversy not unlike what happened back in 2002. I know I am a little late in bringing this subject up, but better late than never.
For a brief recap, the Masters was protested in 2002 by a group led by Martha Burke. The issue was the fact that there were no women members of Augusta National Golf Club. The protest that was held was hardly successful. Flash forward to 2012, and the issue and Martha Burke have resurfaced. Only this time there was an additional element.
IBM is a long time sponsor of the Masters, and Augusta National has granted membership to IBM’s previous CEOs. IBM’s current CEO is a woman named Virginia Rometty. And Augusta National is still an all-male golf club.
I am not here to start a debate. I just have a hard time seeing the issue here. Augusta National is a private club. As a private organization, it has the right to set its own policies up to and including membership. If a private organization wants to change/update its policies, great. If it thinks the rules it has in place are satisfactory, that is also its prerogative. (Yes, I channeled a little Ron Swanson there…) But the whole point of a private organization is that it sets its own rules and shouldn’t have to have its policies dictated to it by outside sources. This fact seems to be lost on Martha Burke.
In all of this, did anyone stop to ask Mrs. Rometty‘s opinion? Does she even care to be a member of Augusta National? Does she even play golf? If I were her, as CEO of a major corporation, I would be somewhat offended if someone was trying to draft me into their pet cause. Maybe she was asked, and I am just uninformed.
Will Augusta National ever open its doors to female membership? Maybe. Will an all-woman’s college open its doors to men? I’m not holding my breath. But if either of them does, it should be on their own terms. Otherwise, what is the point of having a private club, or college for that matter? If said club is not doing anything illegal, immoral, or unethical, then forcing that organization to change based on a differing set of values is just wrong.