Saturday, November 16, 2002

Jesse Jackson plans protest if Augusta doesn't admit a woman

The Associated Press

CHICAGO - The Rev. Jesse Jackson plans to organize a protest at Augusta National Golf Club if it doesn't admit a female member before The Masters in April.

"It's an insult to all that America stands for, and the sponsors should not participate, and members should either change the situation or withdraw," Jackson said Friday. "And I think the PGA has a big obligation to take a stand."

Augusta has had an all-male membership during its 71-year history, but the policy was challenged by Martha Burk, the leader of the National Council of Women's Organizations, and a very public fight ensued.

Earlier this week, Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson was adamant that a woman would not be among the private club's 300 members before The Masters, golf's most prestigious tournament. Johnson said the club may allow women membership, but not soon.

Claiming that Augusta is participating in "gender apartheid," Jackson said he and his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition would help organize a picket line in front of the club during The Masters. He said he also plans "mass education" that would include passing out leaflets and talking to sponsors, members, networks and golfers.

"We support strongly the movement to end the gender apartheid at Augusta National Golf Club. The gender bigotry is as offensive as racial bigotry or religious bigotry," Jackson said.

Officials at Augusta National could not be reached for comment.

Jackson said he has spoken Burk about his plans. Burk predicted Tuesday that it's "more likely than ever" there would be protests outside the club during The Masters.

On Wednesday, the club released results of a survey it commissioned that indicated most people agree Augusta National is a private club that should be allowed to set its own membership policies.

Jackson disagreed, saying, "This is not a sorority or a fraternity. This is a very national, public organization. It is as much public as it is private."

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