By Andrew Both
AUGUSTA, Ga. (Reuters) – Golfers arriving for The Masters at Augusta National on Monday have been nudged into addressing Georgia’s new voting restrictions debate, however tried to keep away from the controversy together with Major League Baseball’s resolution to take away the All-Star Game from Atlanta over the challenge.
The Masters is the 12 months’s first golf main and certainly one of the hottest annual sports activities occasions. Often described as Spring Break for CEOs, the event is a magnet for America’s company elite, a few of whom belong to Augusta National, which has gone to nice lengths in the previous to defend its members.
Golfers have additionally hardly ever waded into delicate areas wanting to keep away from offending their hosts, and once more on Monday treaded softly round Georgia’s voting points.
“This voter stuff and voters for American citizens is very important,” mentioned 2020 PGA Championship winner Collin Morikawa. “Overall the topic of voter rights and all that, that should be the topic that we talk about, (but) not if we are here playing golf.”
MLB’s announcement on Friday marked certainly one of the most high-profile reactions after Georgia final month handed extra stringent voter identification necessities for absentee ballots, shortened early voting durations for runoffs and made it a criminal offense to supply meals and water to voters ready in line.
Critics say the regulation handed by Georgia’s Republican-led state legislature was supposed to make it more durable for Black individuals to vote after an enormous turnout in November and January led to surprising Democratic victories in the presidential election and two U.S. Senate run-off races.
Augusta National has had its personal fraught historical past with race. The Masters, which started in 1934, didn’t invite a Black participant to compete till 1975, and the membership didn’t permit a Black member till 1990.
The resolution to maneuver the All-Star Game has rankled many Republicans, together with Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, who despatched a letter to MLB commissioner Rob Manfred on Monday asking him if he’ll relinquish his Augusta National membership as a private protest over Georgia’s new legal guidelines.
“As you are well aware, the exclusive members-only club is located in the State of Georgia,” wrote Rubio. “Last week, you “decided that the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is by relocating this year’s All-Star Game” from Atlanta because of Georgia’s revised election law.
“It is a choice that can have a much bigger impression on numerous small and minority owned companies in and round Atlanta, than the new election regulation ever will. And one which reeks of hypocrisy,” Rubio said.
Consumer pressures like those applied to MLB and its sponsors have not had the same impact on Augusta National.
When the club was under pressure to allow women members it opted to broadcast the 2003 Masters commercial free to keep tournament sponsors from being pulled into the controversy. It finally allowed membership by women in 2012.
“I do not know sufficient about that (Georgia voting regulation),” said golfer Patrick Cantlay, deftly avoiding offering an opinion. “I do know that this event specifically does a ton for the group; in order that’s apparent and vital for the people round right here.
“I know the tournament is big into doing great things for Augusta, and I think it’s a net positive for sure that we’re playing and the fact that they do so much for the surrounding area and for growing the game.”
The opening spherical of the Masters is ready for Thursday when Dustin Johnson will start protection of the Green Jacket that goes to the winner.
(Writing Steve Keating in Toronto Editing by Bill Berkrot)