The Masters is no longer commercial-free, signing up three
television sponsors Friday for the first time since Martha Burk led
a corporate campaign against Augusta National and its all-male
Club chairman Hootie Johnson said the Masters would add 90
minutes of television coverage and go back to its four minutes of
advertising every hour.
Johnson dropped the Masters' only TV sponsors -- IBM,
Coca-Cola and Citigroup -- two years ago to keep them from being pressured by Burk and her National Council of Women's Organizations. Burk had sent letters to each company saying that sponsorship of the Masters endorsed
IBM is the only company that returns for the 2005 Masters. The
club also signed sponsorship deals with ExxonMobil and SBC
Communications, whose chairmen and CEOs are members of Augusta
A message left for Burk was not returned immediately.
"We're sponsoring a tournament," ExxonMobil spokesman Lauren
Kerr said. "The Augusta membership is a decision for their board.
But the Masters Tournament stands as one of the world's leading
sporting events, and that's where our focus is."
The Masters became the first commercial-free sports event on
network television in 2003 as it tried to deflect pressure from
corporate sponsors. Even though Burk's protest during the third
round of the Masters fizzled in a grassy lot down the street from
the golf course, the Masters went without commercials again this past
Johnson had said the club could go on "indefinitely" without
TV advertising revenue, a testament to the deep pockets of its 300
members. Still, it raised four-day ticket prices to last year's
Masters from $125 to $175.
In a release from the club, Johnson did not say the Masters
had decided to return to television sponsors, only that fans of the
Masters would be pleased with the additional TV coverage. The club
said Johnson would have no further comment.
USA Network will add an additional 30 minutes of coverage in the
first two rounds (4-7 p.m. ET), and CBS Sports will add
30 minutes to its coverage of the third round (3:30-7 p.m.
ET). Coverage of the final round remains 2:30-7 p.m.
Phil Mickelson, who recently signed a deal with ExxonMobil to
promote math and science education, will be the defending champion.
Although Augusta National does not have a membership policy, it has
not had a female member in its 70-year history.
In a June 12, 2002, letter to Johnson, Burk urged Augusta
National to invite a female member to join so that it would not
become an issue at the next Masters.
Johnson took that as a threat and fired off a three-page
statement in which he said Augusta National would not be bullied or
intimidated. In what became a slogan to the 10-month campaign,
Johnson said the club might one day have a female member on its own
timetable but "not at the point of a bayonet."
Burk launched her campaign by attacking television sponsors
(which Johnson dismissed) and CBS Sports (which continued to
broadcast the Masters). She later started a Web site
(www.augustadiscriminates.org) that included a "Hall of
Hypocrisy," in which the NCWO listed corporations that said they had policies against sex discrimination but whose CEOs were members at Augusta National.
A federal appeals court ruled in April that Burk should have
been allowed to demonstrate outside the gates at Augusta National.
City officials, citing safety concerns, made her go to a grassy lot
down the street.
Burk did not return in April 2004, and has not said whether she will
do so in the future.