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Charlotte members of Augusta National support bias

In November, when a former CBS executive resigned his membership from Augusta National Golf Club, it became appropriate to roll out the latest evidence that "Charlotte" and "world-class city" is an oxymoron. Not only will two Charlotte members of Augusta National not resign over not admitting women, they support the club's circling of the wagons to keep women out.Tiger Woods wimped out in calling for change, as have CBS and the Players Golf Association. They've been unwilling to pressure the private club -- which hosts the most popular public tournament in the world, The Masters -- to join the modern world.

Consider this: If the dispute were over admitting African-Americans, Latinos, Asians or Jews there would be no argument. Augusta Chairman Hootie Johnson would be obtaining jacket measurements for the club's newest member. You can just hear him say, "Oh, you take a 42 long -- so do I;" he'd be so accommodating.

Not with women. The battle is about rich, powerful, (mostly) white men socially segregating themselves and seeing nothing wrong with it. Some say this is about Northerners telling Southerners what to do. Not so. It's about men clinging to a notion of superiority by not only excluding women from the club but in rebuking women who challenge the practice. Let's keep women in their places as spouses, girlfriends, sisters, mothers and friends. See them as social peers at the club? Heaven forbid.

Hootie, the club's spokesperson, doesn't like being pressured -- who does -- but he brought it on himself. The National Council of Women's Organizations sent him a modest letter last summer urging the club to open its membership to females. Hootie went ballistic, saying the request put the club at "the point of a bayonet." What? Had he listened to one too many "femi-nazi" diatribes from Rush Limbaugh?

Which brings us to what Charlotte members of Augusta think. The two on the record are clearly residents of Hootieville. And others prefer to be their silent neighbors.

John Belk, the businessman of department-store fame and a four-time Charlotte mayor, earns the squeal as the biggest oinker. "Why have one?" he told the Charlotte Observer, referring to the idea of a woman member. "I don't know of any reason." Clearly Belk sees men as his social equal, not women. Enough said.

Johnny Harris, whose family developed SouthPark and who is chief executive officer of the Lincoln Harris real estate firm, said, "I support the president (Hootie)," he says. "He speaks for the club, and I have no other comment than that." At least Harris had the guts to return a call on the subject. At least two calls each to Belk, James Hance, chief financial officer of Bank of America, and Hugh McColl, former Bank of America chairman, went unanswered.

An assistant to Stuart Dickson, part of the Dickson family that runs Ruddick Corp., parent company of Harris Teeter, said he wouldn't comment. "He isn't going to talk to you," the assistant said, referring me to "Mr. H.H. Johnson" (aka Hootie).

In trying to reach Hootie, a person in his office said he wouldn't comment and provided the name of the communication director at Augusta National. Calls to him? Unreturned. These guys are fighting a losing battle. As a private club, Augusta National is within its legal right to discriminate, but does it want to? Whether these rich, powerful men like it or not, women are their equals.

Wonder what's going on with the Charlotte Sting, as well as why some WNBA teams are moving from the cities where they began? Team insiders and the league say the Sting will stay in Charlotte. As soon as the Charlotte NBA ownership group is selected, news about the Sting is expected to be forthcoming. That looks as if the WNBA has confidence that either ownership group competing for the new NBA franchise in the Queen City has indicated they're interested in a women's team. The group headed by Boston businessman Steve Belkin is on the record to that effect, but so far, DC-area businessman Bob Johnson is not.

As for the league, the big factor in relocations is the fact that some NBA ownership groups are opting not to buy the teams they've been running in their respective markets. Therefore, the WNBA, which owns the teams, has the right to move them elsewhere. So far, Utah, Orlando and Miami are expected to be in new markets next year. They definitely won't be in their old markets, but only Utah's new home has been indicated. The Utah Starzz are moving to a new WNBA venue, San Antonio, which makes sense. That will keep the Starzz in the Western Conference, where it has played since its inception.

Hartford, CT, and Knoxville, TN, homes of two of the country's most successful women's college basketball programs (Connecticut and Tennessee), are clamoring for teams. But is that where Orlando and Miami will go? Hard to tell. The WNBA also is pondering other non-NBA cities that would like teams. USA Today reported that Pittsburgh is interested in a franchise, as are the NBA's Golden State Warriors, located in Oakland.

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