What is it with America and the act of citizens going about the simple task of casting a vote?
No sooner had the rest of the world tried to fathom the workings of the recent US Presidential voting system that a controversial new voting law has brought into question – golfwise – the hosting of next week’s Masters in Augusta and the PGA Tour’s season-ending Tour Championship in suburban Atlanta.
Business executives across the country, including the Georgia-based global giant Coca-Cola, are calling out efforts to restrict voting access after Georgia Republican Governor Brian Kemp signed a law that opponents say would disproportionately disenfranchise people of colour.
Among the overhaul of state elections, the bill includes a restriction on drop boxes, makes it a crime to provide food or water to voters lined up outside polling stations, requires mandatory proof of identity for absentee voting and creates greater legislative control over how elections are run.
Already the Major Baseball League (MBA) has made a decision not to hold this summer’s All-Star Game in Atlanta amid the outcry, and President Biden said this past week that he would support such a move. But the sport’s commissioner said he would go no further than that for now
The PGA Tour and PGA of America have been drawn into this latest voter controversy and released statements on Saturday related to this new Georgia controversial regulation laws. The East Lake Golf Club in eastern Atlanta first hosted the season-ending Tour Championship in 1998 and then again in 2000 and 2002, and since 2004 to the present. Next week’s Masters has been staged at Augusta National since 1934 but efforts by new outlets to get a comment from the private club have been unanswered.
However the PGA Tour said it would not remove the Tour Championship from the state, citing its financial commitment to charity and the local community. The full PGA Tour statement stated:
At the heart of the PGA Tour’s charitable mission is a commitment to serving and supporting communities where we play, across the country and around the world. In Georgia, this commitment has resulted in more than $38 million generated for local charitable organizations since the Tour Championship – our season-ending event – moved to Atlanta in 1998. The Tour Championship’s commitment to East Lake has helped our partners transform distressed neighbourhoods into healthy and thriving ones, which is a key to ending the cycle of intergenerational poverty.
The charitable and economic benefits that have led to these substantial changes would not continue if we simply walked away from those in need. We intend to maintain our commitment to the East Lake Foundation, Grove Park Foundation, Purpose Built Schools Atlanta and First Tee of Metro Atlanta by staging the Tour Championship at the East Lake Golf Club in September. We love these partners, and we will work with them to continue to deliver much-needed support and influence positive change.
Our intention to stage an event in a particular market should not be construed as indifference to the current national conversation around voting rights. The PGA Tour fully supports efforts to protect the right of all Americans to vote and to eliminate any barriers that may prevent citizens’ voices from being heard and counted. It is the foundation of our great country and a critical national priority to listen to the concerns about voter suppression – especially from communities of colour that have been marginalized in the past – and work together to make voting easier for all citizens.
Also issuing a statement was the PGA of America that will contest the KPMG Women’s PGA at Atlanta Athletic Club, June 24-27. The PGA of America statement read:
The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship is a partnership between three organizations committed to diversity, equity and inclusion: PGA of America, LPGA and KPMG. Like many entities, we are monitoring developments related to the new state legislation on voting access. We believe elections should be accessible, fair and secure, and support broad voter participation.
Major Baseball League Commissioner Rob Manfield says moving the ‘All Star Game’ was the best way to demonstrate the sport’s values:
“Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box,” Manfred said.
The NBAs Atlanta Braves also issued a statement declaring it was disappointed with the MBAs decision to move the ‘All Star’ game and while citing the Braves has always been a ‘uniter in dividing times’ the Braves organization suggested nothing to protest the regulation.
Once again, I hear myself mentioning that phrase when it comes to matters US: “They just don’t get it!”