Burk plans to protest new NHL ad campaign

9/23/2005 - NHL

NEW YORK -- Martha Burk is taking aim at the NHL's newest
television advertisement.
Burk, who led an unsuccessful effort to allow female members at
Augusta National three years ago, called the ad "gratuitous"
because it shows a scantily clad woman dressing a hockey player
before he heads onto the ice.
Burk plans to send letters of protest to NHL commissioner Gary
Bettman and Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Universal Sports &
Olympics. NBC is scheduled to run the ad next week.
The ad, shown Wednesday at The Museum of Television & Radio to
the NHL's corporate sponsors, is part of the "More Entertainment!
More Passion! More Hockey!" campaign to launch the season that
begins Oct. 5.
"Here the NHL is trying to portray itself as family
entertainment," Burk said, "and this ad doesn't support that very
The spot opens with a quote from Chinese military philosopher
Sun Tzu: "A clever warrior is one who not only wins, but excels at
winning with ease." A bare-chested player sits on a wooden bench
in the glow of a candlelit room with a backbeat of drums and
rattling sabers. He is approached by a woman in a bra and gauzy
robe, who touches his shoulders, asks "Ready?" and helps him put
on his shoulder pads and jersey.
She says "It's time," and he heads to the ice to the cheers of
a man and young boy in the stands. The ad ends with "My NHL,
coming 10.05."
NHL spokeswoman Bernadette Mansur said the ad is part of a
five-part "Inside the Warrior" series produced for the NHL. It
also appears on the league's Web site.
"We're surprised that Ms. Burk would come to that
interpretation," Mansur said. "This ad is very respectful of
women. The woman is a spiritual and physical trainer for the
warrior, and his mentor."
Burk sees it differently.
"That's a major stretch," she said. "The woman is a sexual
ornament, in my view.
"It's appealing to adult men while trying to masquerade as
something for kids. That's deeply offensive to me. As a mother of
two sons, they see enough sex and violence anyway. Why put it in
warrior terms? That's offensive, let alone the sexism."
A Toronto Star reporter brought the ad to Burk's attention, and
reported her objections in Friday's edition.
Burk said she has already received hate mail, which she also got
after she sent Augusta chairman Hootie Johnson a letter in June
2002, asking him to open the private club's membership. She helped
stage a protest during the 2003 tournament that drew about 50
people and nearly as many counter protesters.
Burk is the chairwoman of the National Council of Women's
Organizations, a network of more than 200 women's groups that
represents 10 million women.
The ad is directed by MTV Video Music Awards winner Sam Bayer.
Conductor, a California-based ad agency, produced the spots, which
were filmed in British Columbia.