Hideki Matsuyama took home the green jacket, but President Biden also was among the winners after golf’s Masters Tournament refused to follow Major League Baseball by pulling out of Georgia.
By rejecting calls to cancel or move the Masters, which concluded Sunday, the Augusta National Golf Club allowed Mr. Biden and ViacomCBS to have it both ways by slamming the state’s newly enacted election law without paying a price.
For Mr. Biden, it meant avoiding accusations that his “Jim Crow” broadsides helped push another high-dollar event out of a largely minority community after MLB’s decision to move the All-Star Game from Atlanta, which is 51% Black, to Denver, which is 9% Black.
Mr. Biden sought to backtrack last week after saying he would “strongly support” pulling the All-Star Game from Atlanta. On Tuesday, he refused to commit on whether the Masters, which is always held at Augusta, should relocate.
“I think that’s up to the Masters,” Mr. Biden told reporters. “Look, you know, it is reassuring to see that for-profit operations and businesses are speaking up about how these new Jim Crow laws are just antithetical to who we are.”
His change of tone did not go unnoticed by George Washington University Law School professor Jonathan Turley.
“One obvious question is why there is a difference between baseball and golf when it comes to anti-racism boycotts,” Mr. Turley said in a post on his website. “If Georgia is back to being a Jim Crow state and a baseball boycott is warranted, why does Biden give the Masters a mulligan?”
Meanwhile, CBS was able to continue its tradition of televising the first of professional golf’s four major tournaments, as the network has done since 1956, while stoking opposition to the Georgia Election Integrity Act.
Conservatives were quick to point to “CBS’s hypocrisy,” as the conservative Media Research Center put it.
“CBS was all too eager to promote the far-left boycott of Georgia, and lobbied businesses to join them,” the center tweeted. “Now they’ve dropped all that to air The Masters that they were just days ago encouraging people to boycott.”
The Media Research Centert noted that “CBS Morning News” hosts Gayle King and Adriana Diaz quizzed corporate figures on whether their public statement opposing “discriminatory legislation” — but not calling for a boycott — went far enough.
In a March 31 exchange with former Xerox CEO Ursula Burns, Ms. King said that “there was no call for a boycott even though other people are calling for boycotts. Why was the decision not to go that far?”
Ms. Diaz added: “Is that enough, just to release a statement to make this proclamation? How will that actually bring about change, in your view?”
CBS also came under fire for an April 2 article and an accompanying tweet headlined “3 ways companies can help fight Georgia’s restrictive new voting law.” The wording was later changed to “Activists are now calling on big companies to challenge new voting laws,” according to screen captures shown on Mediaite and elsewhere.
“Oh, why thank you @CBSNews for your very objective straight news ‘reporting’ on this matter,” former Fox and NBC host Megyn Kelly said in a tweet.
ViacomCBS joined dozens of other U.S. corporations coming out against Senate Bill 202 by saying “we will continue to educate the public on the importance of an open and fair voting system through our programming and extensive partnerships with grassroots organizations that promote and increase participation in elections.”
“We unequivocally believe in the importance of all Americans having an equal right to vote and oppose the recent Georgia voting rights law or any effort that impedes the ability to exercise this vital constitutional right,” the company said in a March 31 statement.
Ms. King noted on Thursday’s show that “ViacomCBS, that’s us, is one of many companies publicly opposing the voting law.”
CBS did not respond to requests for comment from The Washington Times.
The National Black Justice Coalition called last month on the PGA and/or Augusta National to pull the tournament from Georgia. It said professional golf “should not reward Georgia’s attacks on democracy and voting rights with millions of dollars in revenue that the tournament generates and the prestige it brings to the State.”
“We all must act to protect our democracy and the right to vote,” Executive Director David J. Johns said.
Fred Ridley, Augusta National chairman, rejected the idea of moving the event and declined to speak about the law’s specifics at a Wednesday press conference. He did emphasize that “voting is an essential fundamental right in our society.”
“We realize that views and opinions on this law differ, and there have been calls for boycotts and other punitive measures,” Mr. Ridley said. “Unfortunately, those actions often impose the greatest burdens on the most vulnerable in our society. And in this case, that includes our friends and neighbors here in Augusta who are the very focus of the positive difference we are trying to make.”
Critics have pointed out that MLB’s decision to pull the All-Star Game will deliver an estimated $100 million hit to Atlanta, where nearly 30% of businesses are minority-owned.
The PGA Tour said in an April 3 statement that it would not move the Tour Championship from Atlanta. It emphasized that its decision “should not be construed as indifference to the current conversation around voting rights.”
The Masters attracts about 200,000 visitors each year to Augusta-Richmond County, a consolidated city-county that is 57.2% Black and 36.4% White, according to the 2019 census update.
In a March 31 interview with ESPN, Mr. Biden responded favorably when asked whether MLB should move the game out of Atlanta.
“I think today’s professional athletes are acting incredibly responsible. I would strongly support them doing that. People look to them. They’re leaders,” Mr. Biden said. “This is Jim Crow on steroids what they’re doing in Georgia and 40 other states.”
Two days later, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred yanked the game out of Atlanta. White House press secretary Jen Psaki sought to absolve Mr. Biden of responsibility by saying the president “was simply conveying he would support that decision [to move the All-Star game] if that decision was made by MLB.”
After former President Barack Obama cheered MLB for its show of opposition to the Georgia law, conservative media critic Steve Krakauer quipped, “Let’s not stop there.”
“How dare CBS air The Masters live from Georgia next week! (Also: ‘masters’ uh are we not getting the connotation here?)” tweeted the former CNN producer. “The Masters must be moved from Georgia and renamed immediately, or CBS must not air it, President Obama can we agree on this?”
The Masters, the only one of professional golf’s four major tournaments always held in the same location, has been broadcast since 1956 by CBS, though it now airs only the final two days of the four-day tournament. ESPN broadcasts the first two.