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Masters Sheets

I Didn’t Know the Klan Kept Daytime Hours

Things sure look bad for William “Hootie” Johnson, Chairman of Augusta National. Supposedly a good guy on civil rights, and a proponent of expanding Augusta National’s membership, he has been forced into a polar position on the issue of admitting women because Martha Burk, a career opportunist who has put grabbing headlines ahead of advancing legitimate causes for women, has insisted on hanging his scalp from her belt. A good definition of “trouble” is when the Klan comes to your defense.

But appearances are deceiving. Johnson can use the KKK’s appearance on the scene to resolve the issue and heap scorn, rather than credit, on Martha Burk. Hootie, this is the announcement you should make:

“The Masters golf tournament, apart from benefiting Augusta National financially, benefits the Augusta economy, the tens of thousands of patrons who travel from around the world to enjoy the tournament, and local and national charities that have received over $15 million over the last five years.

“Martha Burk knew that announcing an intention to picket The Masters would create a disruptive atmosphere. The Ku Klux Klan followed her to announce that it, too, would picket. Ms. Burk said to the media, ‘They are going to have a real circus if this goes on.’

“Martha Burk’s scorched earth policy apparently knows no bounds. Not content with harassing Augusta National’s members with letters and at their places of business, she has delighted in making this sporting event, which has nothing to do with our membership policies, an uncomfortable and possibly even threatening environment for patrons and members of the Augusta community and charitable organizations that benefit from the tournament.

“We would rather capitulate than let her hold those innocent people hostage to her agenda. Augusta National will invite a woman to join by the end of 2003. We will not negotiate with Martha Burk or make any further announcements regarding our membership.”

My Picks for Augusta National and The Masters

In the event Hootie Johnson doesn’t follow my advice and issue the announcement as recommended, Martha Burk will move ahead, though I truly believe that she will be unable to gather significant support to picket the tournament.

Martha’s group, the National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO), doesn’t have the manpower. (Should that be “personpower” or “womanpower”? Anyone?) It represents a network of 100 organizations, and those organizations have six million members, but the members of those organizations don’t answer to her. In fact, I bet a bunch of them think she’s a gasbag: Center for the Child Care Workforce? Institute for Health and Aging? National Black Women’s Health Project? League of Women Voters? Wages for Housework Campaign? African-American Women’s Clergy Association? I don’t see Martha Burk whipping up a bunch of support from those groups to go to Augusta in April, beautiful though it is, and picket. Unless the picketers come from Central Casting — they won’t be Augusta residents, I bet — I don’t know who would go through the trouble.

By the way, if you want an eye-opener, check out the NCWO’s website. If you want to join that organization, your organization has to be composed “predominantly of women.” That sounds discriminatory if you ask me, especially with Martha trying to perform the quasi-public function of Queen of Equality. Wanna picket?

On the other hand, if Hootie does follow my advice, I’m picking Judy Bell as the first female member. Bell had a long and distinguished career as an amateur golfer, was President of USGA in 1996-1997 (the first woman to so serve), and has been a successful entrepreneur in Colorado. She is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Just call it a hunch.

Lawyers As Heroes, Part II

If you don’t want to concede that the Ku Klux Klan has helped resolve this mess, at least recognize, as a continuing part of our debate about the role of lawyers in America, that lawyers get the credit for putting the Klan out of business.

• In 1987, an Alabama jury held United Klans of America responsible for the 1981 lynching of Michael Donald, awarding his family $7 million. The Klan had to turn over all its assets, including its national headquarters.

• In October 1988, an interracial group marching to honor Martin Luther King won a verdict of $1 million against two Klan organizations and eleven Klan members. Investigators traced the assets of the Invisible Empire, a major Klan defendant in the case, over a five-year period and, in 1994, its leader was forced to pay damages and disband his organization. The group’s office equipment was given to the NAACP.

• In 1998, a South Carolina jury ordered the Christian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Grand Dragon Horace King, and four other Klansmen to pay $37.8 million for conspiracy to burn down the Macedonia Baptist Church. (The court reduced the award to $21.5 million.)

A word to the wise on marketing: to most of the world, “Ku Klux Klan” automatically means bad news, but if you’re part of that minority that wears masks and burns crosses, you obviously feel otherwise. If, however, you are trying to pass in decent society and trick people into believing you’re just another private club, the name “Invisible Empire” sticks out like a sore thumb. Bypassing the “Chairman” title for “Grand Dragon” is also a tip-off that you are out of step with the rest of the world.

And, thanks, lawyers, for the great job!

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