Burk plans to protest new NHL ad campaign

Updated: September 23, 2005, 8:32 PM ET
Associated Press

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 well."

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.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press