- The Washington Times - Friday, November 1, 2002

The U.S. Olympic Committee is bitterly divided over chief executive Lloyd Ward's membership in Augusta National Golf Club, and its executive committee will meet today in Colorado for what promises to be a heated discussion on the issue.
Ward is not expected to lose his job, but the ongoing USOC debate highlights just how big the gender battle at Augusta National has grown.
As Augusta National leaders continue to resist the National Council of Women's Organizations (NCWO), which is seeking to open club membership to women, Ward has become a flashpoint. One of the few black members at Augusta, Ward has publicly stated his desire to see females admitted, and his plan is to force change from within. But his membership still has many within the Olympic movement upset, citing the USOC's formal, written policies on inclusiveness and diversity.
"I'm sure Lloyd thinks belonging to Augusta is a perk you get when you reach a certain place in your life. But I don't think he would join a club that discriminates against minorities," said Herb Perez, one of 22 members of the USOC executive committee. "You don't join the Ku Klux Klan to change it from the inside. I'm not saying Augusta and the Klan are the same. I admittedly bring up the Klan for effect. But my point is that it's very interesting and telling what memberships Lloyd has."
It is virtually certain Ward will not be forced to choose between his $550,000-per-year job and his Augusta membership, particularly since the letter of the law still clearly favors Ward. It is quite likely, however, USOC leaders will continue their recent legacy of squabbling and infighting because of Ward. The buildup to today's session already has obscured an important agenda at the USOC's three-day meeting that includes the selection of its candidate city to play host to the 2012 Summer Olympics.
"The USOC is not this stupid [to fire Ward]. I don't see that happening," said Anita DeFrantz, another executive committee member and a USOC liaison to the International Olympic Committee who is as much behind Ward as Perez is not. "I personally will not be a part of running the first African-American chief executive [of the USOC] out of town on the basis of diversity."
That's precisely the attitude that has Perez most upset. He believes the USOC is picking political expediency over moral right.
"I'm not confident we'll get the change we need on this," Perez said. "The committee lacks the intellectual and moral fortitude to do what's right. But Lloyd should be leading on this. He should give Augusta an ultimatum to admit women or quit his membership. That would show character."
Ward has remained silent since issuing his statement early this month that he is "committed to breaking down barriers which exclude women from membership at Augusta."
USOC president Marty Mankamyer said earlier this month she would have preferred to have known about Ward's Augusta membership before he was hired, but she has declined to issue her personal opinion on the merit of the membership. By the end of today, she intends to release publicly a statement from the executive committee on the Ward issue.
"I hate surprises, and this issue has been a distraction for us," Mankamyer said yesterday. "We have a lot on our plate, particularly the 2012 vote, and it will be better for us to figure out what our responsibilities are [relative to Ward and Augusta], speak with one voice and have this issue resolved so we can move forward. We need to clear the air and have a statement. What that statement will be, I don't know. We're a democracy, and this is what we need to discuss. But we will have a statement."
NCWO chairwoman Martha Burk said Ward, among others, was specifically targeted by the women's lobbying group because of his prominent position and the USOC's clear anti-discrimination stance.
"There is obviously something to reconcile there," Burk said. "I am looking forward to Mr. Ward being a leader on this."

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide