As the final day of The Masters’ golf tournament commences, with Dustin Johnson atop the leaderboard, the fraught history of the New York Times’ historical coverage of the premier four-day event, hosted by the Augusta National Golf Club, is again part of the story.
In 2011, Times golf writer Karen Crouse took some heat from her editors after saying she did not want to cover The Masters golf tournament until Augusta National admitted female members. She told Golf Magazine:
“If it were left to me, which it seldom is in the power structure of writer versus editor, I’d probably not come cover this event again until there is a woman member.”
Times sports editor Joe Sexton said the comments were "completely inappropriate and she has been spoken to.” Yet Crouse’s un-journalistic fit, if performed in 2020, would probably be applauded in the woke Times newsroom.
Previously there was sometimes editorial or management pushback against liberal excesses among reporters. But now all filters have been discarded and journalism proudly hews to liberal activism, especially when there’s a social justice angle -- in this case, Augusta National honoring golfer Lee Elder, who in 1975 became the first black man to play The Masters tournament.
Now Crouse is back on the beat, if perhaps not actually back in Augusta, with a full-page story headlined, “A Storied Course Comes Late to the Conversation.” The text box: “A club with a history of exclusion honors its first Black competitor.” Crouse’s piece, which ran the day before the first round, doesn’t carry an Augusta byline, which may indicate she is still staying away?
After setting the scene of a muted Masters played out of season after coronavirus canceled its traditional April start, she groused:
But Augusta National has always existed in a bubble, a byproduct of a famously private club consolidating its influence and then enforcing it over the decades while maintaining practices that, throughout most of its storied history, were exclusionary and racist.
The Masters, first played in 1934, didn’t extend an invitation to a Black competitor until 1975. The club didn’t admit its first Black member until 1990 and didn’t offer membership to women until 2012.
After a year characterized by widespread protests over racial inequality and amid an ongoing reckoning in America over race, Augusta National on Monday at last joined the conversation....
Still, it wasn’t good enough for Crouse.
Unspoken was the fact that Augusta National could have honored Elder five, 10 or 15 years ago. In choosing to do so now, the club appeared to be trying to catch the tail end of a wave of racial awakenings that spurred work stoppages across a variety of professional sports, forced the N.F.L. to publicly reverse its position on on-field protests and led to the banning of the Confederate flag at NASCAR events.
The Times’ odd attacks on the home of The Masters’ go back to the start of the millennium. In 2003, then-executive editor Howell Raines caused controversy even among the liberal media for his constant front-page crusade against the all-male membership policies of the private entity.
Raines went so far as to spike columns by two of his own writers for taking issue with the paper's embarrassing editorial suggesting Tiger Woods boycott the Masters in the name of solidarity with women. (Raines' suggestion that a black golfer avoid playing the tournament looks even odder in these days of protests focusing on racial inequity, and Augusta National's move to honor Lee Elder.)