Every year during the build-up to the Masters, the Augusta National Golf Club comes under fire for being sexist because of its policy barring women from becoming members.Yes, Augusta National is sexist.
But simply put, it doesn’t give a damn about what you think. Not Barack Obama, not Mitt Romney, not the media and not the general public.
Augusta makes its money off its brand, which is focused around the course’s history and its famed tournament. It represents the pinnacle of the sport, and it’s an integral part of golf — and American — history.
It’s that reputation as the most prestigious club in the country that helps make the Masters such a massive success every year. Without that, Augusta is the same as any other ultra-fancy golf course.
Everything about the brand screams elitism. Augusta acts like it doesn’t care about profits — low concessions, limited tickets, only four minutes per hour of commercials on the TV broadcast. It’s all part of mystique.
Of course, Augusta does care about money. It may cave if sponsors started to leave in droves because of its sexist stance.
But that’s the thing. Sponsors are sticking with Augusta, and even if they didn’t, they could likely be replaced anyway. In their eyes, the benefit of being associated with the world’s most elite golf tournament outweighs any reputational damage caused by Augusta’s sexism.
Look at IBM. Augusta traditionally grants membership to the CEO of its big-time sponsors, and its rejection of CEO Virginia Rometty could be seen as a slap in the face.
And yet, she’s still attending the Masters, and IBM still paying Augusta loads of money.
So whose opinion does Augusta actually care about?
Its members. And as Jason Sobel at the Golf Channel points out, it’s not keen on letting people know what they think. It considers these things internal matters, and that’s how they stay.
Sure, Augusta may eventually take that giant step forward, change its perception in the minds of the public and finally enter the 21st century by letting Rometty and other women in. Someday, it might do the right thing.
But if it ever does, it’s going to do it on its own terms. Augusta does what it wants, how it wants, when it wants to do it.
At least that’s how it wants you to see it.
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