COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The U.S. Olympic Committee on
Friday voiced its strong support for CEO Lloyd Ward's push to open
Augusta National Golf Club to women members.
Rather than asking Ward to resign from Augusta National or from
the USOC, the organization's executive committee commended his
efforts to work toward change at the home of the Masters.
''I can't change Augusta. Augusta has to change itself,'' Ward
said. ''But as an individual you have an opportunity to stand up
for what you believe in, and that's what I've done. I've done that
my whole life and that's what I'm doing now.
''I have not given deadlines and I have not been given
Ward was the first member of Augusta National to say in April
that he would work behind the scenes to admit a woman. USOC
president Marty Mankaymer said she believed it was important for
the USOC to debate the issue and take a stand.
Ward said he remains committed to ''inclusion and diversity and
a level playing field. That's what the Olympics are all about.''
Asked how he could advocate inclusion in the Olympics while
belonging to a private golf club that excludes, Ward said the
conflict represents a challenge and an opportunity.
''If you take a look at Augusta, not too long ago it excluded
people of color,'' he said. ''I'm part of a small, select group of
individuals that have broken the color barrier at Augusta. My life
has been about a lot of firsts, not because I'm special, because
I'm not. But because the world has limits and boundaries and
dimensions that exclude certain people and include others. My life
has been full of intersections with those kinds of restrictions.
I've always used the idea of being first to try to open the door
wider for those who might follow me.''
Anita DeFrantz, a member of the executive committee and the
International Olympic Committee, said before the meeting that
Ward's job was not at stake.
''I will not be a part of running the first African-American CEO
out of town on the basis of diversity,'' DeFrantz said.
Martha Burk, the leader of the drive to open Augusta National
membership to women, was satisfied with the USOC's stand.
''I am pleased that the board and he believe that change can be
made at Augusta National, and made in a reasonable time frame,''
Burk, the head of the National Council of Women's Organizations,
said by telephone. ''The letter he sent to me suggested that if he
didn't think that was possible, he'd resign (from Augusta). I'm
pleased that the committee gave him a little slack to work to
change Augusta's policy. I believe he's sincere in working toward
Ward, who has played golf at Augusta National only once, said he
did not list his membership there when he applied for the CEO job
at the USOC because he didn't think it was important and ''it just
was not an issue.''
Burk said that is precisely why she has been pressing the issue
with business executives who are Augusta members.
''If we've succeeded in anything, we've succeeded in raising the
consciousness of business executives about sex discrimination,''
she said. ''I imagine it just wasn't on (Ward's) radar screen the
way racial discrimination was. If he were asked to join the club
today, knowing that it excluded women, he probably would not do