AUGUSTA, Ga. — As soon as Major League Baseball, in protest of Georgia’s controversial restrictive voting law, pulled its All-Star Game out of Atlanta, there were some knee-jerk reactions from people to boycott this week’s Masters and even for the annual event to be taken out of Georgia, along with calls for the PGA Tour to move its annual Tour Championship from Atlanta.
The law, signed last month, allows for election legislation to impose new voter identification requirements for absentee ballots and to empower state officials to take over local elections boards and limit the use of ballot drop boxes.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, who made the announcement that the All-Star Game would be relocated from Georgia to Colorado because of the voter law, is an Augusta National member.
On Wednesday, in his annual state-of-the-Masters press conference, Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley addressed the topic.
“I believe, as does everyone in our organization, that the right to vote is fundamental in our democratic society,’’ Ridley said. “No one should be disadvantaged in exercising that right, and it is critical that all citizens have confidence in the electoral process. This is fundamental to who we are as a people.
“We realize that views and opinions on this law differ, and there have been calls for boycotts and other punitive measures. Unfortunately, those actions often impose the greatest burdens on the most vulnerable in our society. And in this case, that includes our friends and neighbors here in Augusta, who are the very focus of the positive difference we are trying to make.’’
Ridley was referring not only to the revenue boost the Masters injects into Augusta annually, but the millions of dollars the club donates to the community.
As the Masters practice rounds have proceeded this week, several players, most notably Cameron Champ, the only black player in the 88-player field this week, have addressed the issue.
“As you can tell, it really targets certain black communities and makes it harder to vote, which to me is everyone’s right to vote,” Champ said. “For me to see that, it’s very shocking. Obviously with what MLB and what they did in moving the All-Star Game was a big statement. I know there’s a bunch of other organizations and companies that have moved things.”
Champ, one of very few PGA Tour players to speak out about controversial topics, recalled an incident at the BMW Championship that disturbed him and revealed how unaware too many of his fellow players are about some of the social injustices taking place.
“I remember walking onto the range, and I had [the names] Breonna Taylor and Jacob Blake [written] on my shoes, and I got asked by three different people, ‘Who are they?’ ’’ Champ said. “To me, that proves the point of why I’m [speaking out]. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done, but I think everything is going the right direction. What I can do, what my family can do and my team can do, we’re going to do as much as we can, even though it’s a small portion of the entire golf community.’’
The PGA Tour, earlier in the week, stated it won’t move the season-ending Tour Championship, scheduled for Sept. 2-5, from Atlanta, saying it has a financial commitment to the charities and the local community.
“This voter stuff and voter for American citizens is very important,” 2020 PGA Championship winner Collin Morikawa said. “I think that’s the topic we should all be talking about. We shouldn’t be talking about whether we’re here or not. The Masters, the PGA Tour, we do such a good job and we’re trying to help communities out and I think that’s our main focus for the week.
“The topic of voter rights and all that, that should be the topic that we talk about, not if we are here playing golf.’’