Tarnished Twenty- The FindLaw Sports Law Blog

Augusta National Admits Women for the First Time

The Augusta National Golf Club is set to admit two women as members.

After an 80-year history of all-male membership, the home of the Masters is finally entering the modern age and is opening its doors to females.

The two women invited to join are former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina financier Darla Moore, reports The Associated Press. It's interesting to note that the most recent woman to have sparked the Augusta sexism debate, IBM CEO Virginia Rometty, was not invited. The past four IBM CEOs were invited into the club, but Rometty never received her invite -- and she's still waiting.

Since 2002, Augusta has faced intense pressure to offer memberships to women. However, the club resisted, with former club chairman Hootie Johnson famously saying that Augusta National might one day have a woman in a green jacket, "but not at the point of a bayonet," reports the AP.

As the club finally changes its policy, you may be wondering how the venerated golf club could have so openly discriminated against women (the club also left out African Americans until 1990).

The answer is that the ridiculously expensive golf club is private. By contrast, a club that is open to the public would be required under federal law to open its doors to all eligible members regardless of sex, race, or any other protected characteristic. However, because the Augusta National maintained its status as a private club, the club was free to discriminate.

While unpleasant, the arguments that allowed Augusta to discriminate are the same that would allow a private homeowner to pick and choose who can enter her home. After all, if a private homeowner doesn't want people of a certain race in her house, she has the right to discriminate in this way.

The Augusta National Golf Club is not like any normal private home though, as the club generates millions of dollars with the Masters golf tournament. The golf tournament faced losing endorsements and advertising dollars due to its sexist policies, and that may be a big reason Augusta National is finally allowing women to join.

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