Classic debate at the Masters: Time for women?

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Classic debate at the Masters: Time for women?

From Comcast SportsNet
As a club that prides itself on tradition, Augusta National again is in the middle of a membership debate it thought it was done with nearly a decade ago. Just seven days before the Masters, no less. The last four chief executives of IBM -- a longtime corporate sponsor of the Masters -- have been members of the exclusive golf club in Augusta, Ga. The latest CEO of the computer giant happens to be a woman. Virginia Rometty was appointed this year. One problem -- a woman has never worn a member's green jacket since Augusta National opened in 1933. "I think they're both in a bind," Martha Burk said Thursday evening. Burk, who spearheaded an unsuccessful campaign 10 years ago for the club to admit a female member, said Friday morning on CNN she fears Augusta and IBM will work out a "sham solution" to make the issue go away. "The company has a huge responsibility here not to undermine its first female CEO," Burk said. "If they accept anything less than full member -- or resign their sponsorship, which is another option -- they're going to undermine their new CEO. And they'll be making a statement that they don't consider her an equal to her predecessors." Still to be determined is how much traction the topic will muster going into the Masters. Augusta National, through a spokesman, declined comment in keeping to its policy that membership issues are private. IBM did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment. Rometty is said to play golf sparingly. Her greater passion is scuba diving. Hootie Johnson, chairman of the club a decade ago, ignited the controversy back then when he said that while Augusta might one day have a female member, it would be on the club's timetable and "not at the point of a bayonet." Burk applied pressure on just about everyone connected with the club and with the Masters, the major championship that garners the highest TV ratings. She demanded that four companies drop their television sponsorship because of discrimination. She lobbied PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem not to recognize the Masters as part of the tour schedule. It didn't work. The protest fizzled in a parking lot down the street from the club during the third round of the 2003 tournament. "We did raise the issue," Burk said on CNN. "If we had not done that, this would not be on the table now." Not only is the debate back, this time it has a face -- Rometty, a 31-year veteran of IBM who has been ranked among the "50 Most Powerful Women in Business" by Fortune magazine the last seven years. Rometty was No. 7 last year. The chairman of Augusta National -- and the Masters -- is Billy Payne, who ran the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. When he replaced Johnson as chairman of the club and of the Masters tournament in 2006, he said there was "no specific timetable" for admitting women. The question was raised at the 2007 and 2010 Masters. Both times, Payne said membership issues were private. Rometty succeeds Sam Palmissano at IBM, which runs the Masters' website from the bottom floor of the media center. According to a list published by USA Today in 2002, the three CEOs prior to Palmissano also were members -- Louis Gertsner, John Akers and John Opel. As the corporate sponsors became the target, Johnson wound up doing away with TV sponsorship for two years at the Masters to keep the corporate partners -- IBM, Coca-Cola and Citigroup -- out of the fray. Only IBM returned as a TV sponsor for the 2005 Masters. The others were SBC Communications and ExxonMobil. Burk said it should not be that easy for IBM to hide if the debate gains momentum. "What IBM needs to do is draw a line in the sand -- We're either going to pull our sponsorship and membership and any ancillary activities we support with the tournament, or the club is going to have to honor our CEO the way they have in the past,'" Burk said in a telephone interview Thursday evening. "There's no papering over it. They just need to step up and do the right thing. "They need to not pull that argument that they support the tournament and not the club," she said. "That does not fool anybody, and they could undermine their new CEO." Burk said she would not be surprised if IBM pressured Rometty to say she doesn't want to be a member. "Really, I don't think it's her responsibility," Burk said. "It's the board of directors. They need to take action here. They don't need to put that on her. They need to say, This is wrong. We thought the club was on the verge of making changes several years ago, and we regretfully end our sponsorship to maintain her credibility and the company brand.'" The debate returns just in time for one of the most anticipated Masters in years. Tiger Woods finally returned to winning form last week at Bay Hill and is considered one of the favorites, along with U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy. Eight of the top 20 players in the world ranking have won heading into the first major of the year, a list that includes world No. 1 Luke Donald and Phil Mickelson. Now comes a sensitive issue that dogged the tournament a decade ago, and might not go away easily. Women can play the course at Augusta National, but cannot join the club or wear the Augusta green jacket, which is reserved for members and stands as a status symbol in business and golf. Rometty could become a central figure in the argument over female membership whether she wishes to or not. "We have a face, we have a resume, we have a title and we have a credible reason to do it that doesn't involve Martha Burk," Burk said. Burk said she is no longer chair of the National Council of Women's Organizations. She had planned to step down until the first flap with the Masters began in the summer of 2002. Now, she said she runs the Corporate Accountability Project for the council, a project born from her battle with Augusta.

Bruins sign pair of draft picks, including BC's Fitzgerald, to entry-level deals

Bruins sign pair of draft picks, including BC's Fitzgerald, to entry-level deals

Amidst the current turmoil at the NHL level, the Bruins delivered a little good news about the future today . . . with more potentially to come. 

The Bruins announced the signing of a pair of prospects/former draft picks -- Boston College forward Ryan Fitzgerald and defenseman Emil Johansson -- to entry-level contracts that will kick in next season. There will likely be another wave of signings with the Bruins from the amateur ranks once players like Charlie McAvoy, Anders Bjork and Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson are finished up with their college teams in the NCAA tournament, though it remains to be seen exactly which players end up taking the NHL plunge. 

There was some uncertainty as to whether Fitzgerald would definitely sign with Boston after completing his senior season at BC, but he will immediately join the Providence Bruins on an amateur tryout agreement after signing a two-year deal. Johansson will join the Bruins on a Professional Tryout Agreement with a three-year entry level deal that kicks off next season. 

The 5-foot-10, 177-pound Fitzgerald was an alternate captain for BC in 2016-17, with 12 goals and 19 assists for 31 points in 34 games with 56 penalty minutes and a plus-14 rating. Fitzgerald is also the son of Billerica native and former Bruins forward Tommy Fitzgerald, who took to Twitter on Friday to voice his overwhelming pride over his oldest signing an NHL contract. He was a fourth-round pick by the Bruins in 2013.

Johansson, 20, completed his first season with Djurgardens IF of the Swedish Hockey League in 2016-17, establishing career highs with 7 goals and 10 assists for 17 points with 26 penalty minutes in 49 games. The B's selected him in the seventh round in 2014.

Report: Clippers' Griffin willing to consider Celtics in free agency

Report: Clippers' Griffin willing to consider Celtics in free agency

With all attention focused on overtaking the Cavs for the No. 1 seed in the East, the offseason -- trades, the draft, free agency -- is on the backburner in Celtics Nation these days.

But that pot's still simmering,

And it began to boil a little today when Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding, in the middle of a story on the Clippers being at a crossroad, threw a little accelerant on that old Blake Griffin-to-Boston flame . . .

But more and more people around the league believe he would be open to a fresh start — perhaps with the Lakers or the Boston Celtics, who have coveted Griffin for years and would offer a new chance to win. The most intriguing fit might be if he were to go home to Oklahoma to join Russell Westbrook and the Thunder, but his interests in the entertainment industry make staying in Los Angeles a priority.

Not much of a thread to grab there. But that didn't prevent cbssports.com's James Herbert from looking into it . . .  

Jumping to another contender on a max contract might not be simple. As CelticsBlog’s Keith P. Smith pointed out, Boston would have to dump Terry Rozier, waive Tyler Zeller and renounce all its free agents, including Kelly Olynyk, Jonas Jerebko and Amir Johnson, in order to even get near the amount of cap room that would be required to offer Griffin or someone like Gordon Hayward a max deal. 

Then again, Herbert says the Lakers and Thunder, Griffin's supposed other two destination spots, are even less financially flexible than the C's.

For now, it's all just a temporary diversion from the battle for No. 1.

It's also a reminder, though, that a whole new season -- the offseason -- is just around the corner.