Current weather

  • Scattered clouds
  • 54°
    Scattered clouds

Don't use the word 'boycott'

Posted: Tuesday, April 22, 2003

The last time anybody blew a lead this big was the '69 Cubs.

Instead of being demoralized, Martha Burk is juiced.

No pity parties, none of this ''wait-'til-next-season'' stuff for her. The National Council of Women's Organizations boss, whose name rhymes with work, can't wait to get back at it, especially now that she's facing somebody her own size.

''We are moving to a full-fledged corporate campaign,'' Burk said over the weekend, repeating a vow to make life miserable for any CEO who still belongs to Augusta National Golf Club.

Though she's been making the same threat every day for the nearly eight months, she told the Chicago Sun-Times it's important now to be precise.

''We don't use the word 'boycott,''' she said.

Apparently legal terms make her jumpy.

''We use 'consumer information,''' she said. ''We use 'purchasing decisions.'''

Some people would use ''shakedown'' or ''coercion,'' but whatever.

Burk, unavailable for comment Sunday night, is calling on anybody who cares deeply about Augusta's men-only membership roll not to buy goods or services from corporations whose CEOs won't resign.

Based on the 40 protesters she cobbled together at the Masters, and the price of a 2-liter bottle (79 cents on sale this weekend), those ''purchasing decisions'' might already have cost Coca-Cola upward of $8 a day -- even more if they swear off snacks, too.

And she's just getting started.

''My goal is to make it completely unacceptable to practice sex discrimination,'' Burk said.

Who knew? Despite considerable public sympathy and sometimes-fawning media attention, she's managed the opposite. Burk made such a mess out of campaigning to get a woman admitted to Augusta that it's become easier, not harder, to sidestep discussions of the real damage sex discrimination causes.

Last week, instead of moping over her bad reviews, Burk jumped squarely into the middle of a labor dispute between the WNBA and its players' association. She was soon joined by National Organization of Women president Kim Gandy, who warned golf wasn't the only game where ''consumer information'' and ''purchasing decisions'' might come into play.

Women ''recognize and reward good corporate citizenship, and the reverse,'' Gandy said. ''The members are going to be watching.''

It would break Gandy's heart if she knew how few people actually watch the WNBA, but that's another column. As it is, the league folded two franchises after last season, moved two others and expects to lose some $12 million this season -- despite reaching a tentative deal with its players Friday.

''I have an idea if this was a new startup men's league, we wouldn't be talking about them making a profit (yet),'' Burk said.

There was that one-season-and-done, $100-million startup men's league called the XFL, but who's counting? More to the point is what that quote demonstrates about Burk: She rarely does her homework.

She might be good at twisting arms in Washington, D.C., over welfare reform and Social Security benefits for women. Away from Capitol Hill, though, it's another story.

Last July, she wrote Augusta chairman Hootie Johnson with vague threats of what could happen if a woman wasn't invited to join the club before the Masters. Johnson, who is a good deal more progressive and a lot smarter than his first response let on, lost it -- momentarily. His worst line was that the club would not be forced to admit women ''at the point of a bayonet.''

Burk woke up the next morning on third base and believed she had just tripled. Rather than tackle the issues women identify over and over as barriers to their participation in golf -- a lack of time and teaching opportunities, more affordable playing and learning centers -- she chose the easy target.

Somehow, she managed to miss even that. Burk lost respect from much of her audience when she said the Masters didn't have to be played at Augusta National, then lost touch with the rest by trying to link women fighting in Iraq with women being admitted to Augusta National. Then came the disastrous puppet show-protest.

''Every time I see one of those corporations' names mentioned in an article,'' she said, ''it's a victory for me.''

If so, Johnson still holds a big lead. He proved that just before the tournament began. After his remarks in July, he resurfaced with a kinder, gentler version of Augusta National that made the club sound no more exclusionary than the Girl Scouts. But on that day, he was talking tough again.

''If I drop dead, right now, our position will not change in this issue,'' he said. ''It's not my issue alone. And I promise you what I'm saying is, if I drop dead this second, our position will not change.''

What he didn't say was that the club had earlier offered any member who opposed that position a chance to quit. Not one did.

Maybe that's why Johnson is already talking about another Masters without sponsors, even if making up the difference means sending members out on the golf course in their green jackets to sell boxes of cookies.

Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke@ap.org



CONTACT US

  • 150 Trading Bay Rd, Kenai, AK 99611
  • Switchboard: 907-283-7551
  • Circulation and Delivery: 907-283-3584
  • Newsroom Fax: 907-283-3299
  • Business Fax: 907-283-3299
  • Accounts Receivable: 907-335-1257
  • View the Staff Directory
  • or Send feedback

ADVERTISING

SUBSCRIBER SERVICES

SOCIAL NETWORKING

MORRIS ALASKA NEWS