The Business Sense Underlying Augusta’s Decision to Admit Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore as
If you’re looking for a feminist take on the admission of women into Augusta National, then I’m afraid you’ve clicked on the wrong blog.
To minimize the chances of inadvertently depositing foot into mouth, I find it’s better to talk about what I know, and I know good business when I see it. Congratulations to Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore for what is, for better or worse, regarded by many as a symbolic triumph.
But even bigger congratulations to Augusta National.
Contrary to what this AP article’s sloppy hook implies, the biggest winner in all of this is neither these already-celebrated women nor the women’s liberation movement as a whole but instead the hyper-exclusive – and equally hyper-masculine – golfing club that hosts the Masters.
That would be Augusta National, for those of you who somehow managed to wander into a business law blog without a sense of why anyone would want to wear such an absurdly-hued blazer.
Whenever the bliss of your Saturday morning front nine is shattered by obscenities from the next green over, it’s because something as innocuous as the sound of a duck breaking wind has shattered someone’s concentration, and correspondingly, dashed that someone’s secret fantasy of one day obtaining this garment. No wonder golfers drink.
By letting a few girls come and have drinks at their boys club, Augusta would have been able to take the (arguably morally- and logically-flawed) stance of the coworker who makes an uncomfortably racial joke only to defend it with the argument, “It’s okay, I have friends who are [insert ridiculed minority here].” By letting a former Secretary of State and a renowned investment partner/philanthropist rather than just a few “girls” become members, Augusta may still be taking that problematic stance.
But it’s a stance more tenable than the one that it had the day before, just as that stance was more tenable than the one that Augusta had in 1989 when African Americans were excluded from membership.
It may be disingenuous capitulation “at the tip of a PR bayonet,” as Tim Kawakami remarks, alluding to reports that Augusta had been pressured into the decision by sponsors. Even if it is, by allowing women to become members now rather than when Martha Burk protested in 2002 Augusta is able to save face – which is why chairman Billy Payne was able to announce the decision as a “joyous occasion.”
In business, Image reigns king – as long as it serves its only god, Money. And I would be shocked if Augusta didn’t receive a heap of that deity as a sort of financial sigh of relief from its current sponsors, not to mention all the others who will be clamoring for Masters advertising now that they can (try to) argue to their constituents that the glass ceiling over Augusta has broken – or at least, cracked.
It’s the place of anyone but a white male lawyer to decide whether Augusta’s decision was for better or worse socially, but it seems any progress – whether symbolic or otherwise – is still progress. What this white male lawyer does know is that Augusta won’t have any trouble paying to get the green jackets cut in a more feminine shape now that it has a reason to.
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