Cubs

Classic debate at the Masters: Time for women?

718076.jpg

Classic debate at the Masters: Time for women?

From Comcast SportsNet
As a club that prides itself on tradition, Augusta National again is in the middle of a membership debate it thought it was done with nearly a decade ago. Just seven days before the Masters, no less. The last four chief executives of IBM -- a longtime corporate sponsor of the Masters -- have been members of the exclusive golf club in Augusta, Ga. The latest CEO of the computer giant happens to be a woman. Virginia Rometty was appointed this year. One problem -- a woman has never worn a member's green jacket since Augusta National opened in 1933. "I think they're both in a bind," Martha Burk said Thursday evening. Burk, who spearheaded an unsuccessful campaign 10 years ago for the club to admit a female member, said Friday morning on CNN she fears Augusta and IBM will work out a "sham solution" to make the issue go away. "The company has a huge responsibility here not to undermine its first female CEO," Burk said. "If they accept anything less than full member -- or resign their sponsorship, which is another option -- they're going to undermine their new CEO. And they'll be making a statement that they don't consider her an equal to her predecessors." Still to be determined is how much traction the topic will muster going into the Masters. Augusta National, through a spokesman, declined comment in keeping to its policy that membership issues are private. IBM did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment. Rometty is said to play golf sparingly. Her greater passion is scuba diving. Hootie Johnson, chairman of the club a decade ago, ignited the controversy back then when he said that while Augusta might one day have a female member, it would be on the club's timetable and "not at the point of a bayonet." Burk applied pressure on just about everyone connected with the club and with the Masters, the major championship that garners the highest TV ratings. She demanded that four companies drop their television sponsorship because of discrimination. She lobbied PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem not to recognize the Masters as part of the tour schedule. It didn't work. The protest fizzled in a parking lot down the street from the club during the third round of the 2003 tournament. "We did raise the issue," Burk said on CNN. "If we had not done that, this would not be on the table now." Not only is the debate back, this time it has a face -- Rometty, a 31-year veteran of IBM who has been ranked among the "50 Most Powerful Women in Business" by Fortune magazine the last seven years. Rometty was No. 7 last year. The chairman of Augusta National -- and the Masters -- is Billy Payne, who ran the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. When he replaced Johnson as chairman of the club and of the Masters tournament in 2006, he said there was "no specific timetable" for admitting women. The question was raised at the 2007 and 2010 Masters. Both times, Payne said membership issues were private. Rometty succeeds Sam Palmissano at IBM, which runs the Masters' website from the bottom floor of the media center. According to a list published by USA Today in 2002, the three CEOs prior to Palmissano also were members -- Louis Gertsner, John Akers and John Opel. As the corporate sponsors became the target, Johnson wound up doing away with TV sponsorship for two years at the Masters to keep the corporate partners -- IBM, Coca-Cola and Citigroup -- out of the fray. Only IBM returned as a TV sponsor for the 2005 Masters. The others were SBC Communications and ExxonMobil. Burk said it should not be that easy for IBM to hide if the debate gains momentum. "What IBM needs to do is draw a line in the sand -- We're either going to pull our sponsorship and membership and any ancillary activities we support with the tournament, or the club is going to have to honor our CEO the way they have in the past,'" Burk said in a telephone interview Thursday evening. "There's no papering over it. They just need to step up and do the right thing. "They need to not pull that argument that they support the tournament and not the club," she said. "That does not fool anybody, and they could undermine their new CEO." Burk said she would not be surprised if IBM pressured Rometty to say she doesn't want to be a member. "Really, I don't think it's her responsibility," Burk said. "It's the board of directors. They need to take action here. They don't need to put that on her. They need to say, This is wrong. We thought the club was on the verge of making changes several years ago, and we regretfully end our sponsorship to maintain her credibility and the company brand.'" The debate returns just in time for one of the most anticipated Masters in years. Tiger Woods finally returned to winning form last week at Bay Hill and is considered one of the favorites, along with U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy. Eight of the top 20 players in the world ranking have won heading into the first major of the year, a list that includes world No. 1 Luke Donald and Phil Mickelson. Now comes a sensitive issue that dogged the tournament a decade ago, and might not go away easily. Women can play the course at Augusta National, but cannot join the club or wear the Augusta green jacket, which is reserved for members and stands as a status symbol in business and golf. Rometty could become a central figure in the argument over female membership whether she wishes to or not. "We have a face, we have a resume, we have a title and we have a credible reason to do it that doesn't involve Martha Burk," Burk said. Burk said she is no longer chair of the National Council of Women's Organizations. She had planned to step down until the first flap with the Masters began in the summer of 2002. Now, she said she runs the Corporate Accountability Project for the council, a project born from her battle with Augusta.

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

chicago-thankful.jpg
USA TODAY

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

Families gather and people talk about things they are thankful for on Thanksgiving, but what are Chicago sports fans happy for now?

Raised expectations on the North Side

Got to be thankful that a “disappointing” season is winning the division and losing in the NLCS. The expectations have skyrocketed, and that’s thanks to a ridiculous nucleus of bats and a steady front office. Not many clubs can say that. Also, though, it’s important to be appreciative of the Wrigley bar stretch. They may charge $8 for a Miller Lite, but it’s always a damn good party.

Javy tags, too. Don't forget Javy tags.

Rebuild sparking hope in White Sox fans

Where to begin? Obviously, be thankful for the plethora of young talent that will soon take over the South Side. Be thankful for Avi Time (while you still can). Be thankful that taking your friends or family to a game won’t cause you to take out a second mortgage. Be thankful for the 2020 World Series and, of course, 2020 MVP Eloy Jimenez. But most importantly, be thankful that Rick Hahn’s phone stays buzzing.

Eddie O back in the booth for the Blackhawks

The Blackhawks are having a rough start to the season, but at least Eddie Olczyk is back in the booth. The longtime Blackhawks broadcaster returned to the booth on Oct. 18 after missing time while undergoing chemotherapy treatments for colon cancer.

With some of the key names from the Blackhawks’ title runs either leaving or being unable to play this season (in the case of Marian Hossa), Blackhawks fans are probably thankful to see a familiar face and hear a familiar voice during games.

Lauri Markkanen leading the Bulls rebuild

OK, there’s not much to be thankful for about the current Bulls team. At 3-13, the Bulls are tied for the fewest wins in the NBA (maybe in the long-term that’s something to be thankful for as well). However, Zach LaVine’s pending debut after his eventual return from injury should help create some excitement.

The thing Bulls fans really should be thankful for this year is the play of rookie Lauri Markkanen. The 20-year-old leads the team in scoring (14.6 points per game) and rebounds (8.3 per game) while shooting at a high percentage (34.2 percent on threes and 50.6 percent on twos). It’s only the beginning of the Bulls’ rebuild, but Markkanen is a good start.

Mitchapalooza

If a few things broke the Bears’ way, Chicagoans could have been grateful that the team was finally out of the cellar. Instead, we’ll settle for the fact that there seems to be some building blocks already in place. Mitchell Trubisky, Tarik Cohen, Leonard Floyd and Akiem Hicks seem to fit that category. Also, some may be thankful that this is likely John Fox’s last season at the helm.

Fire ending a playoff drought

After finishing dead last in MLS in 2015 and 2016, the Fire were one of the most improved teams in the league in 2017. After posting the third best record in the league, the Fire made a first playoff appearance since 2012.

The playoff run didn’t last long with the Fire losing a play-in game at home, but the arrival of Bastian Schweinsteiger and the league’s leading goal-scorer, Nemanja Nikolic, helped fill the stadium with six sellouts and gave Fire fans something to cheer for.

With Leonard Floyd going on injured reserve, will the Bears have a pressing need at outside linebacker in 2018?

floyd-ir-1123.jpg
USA TODAY

With Leonard Floyd going on injured reserve, will the Bears have a pressing need at outside linebacker in 2018?

The Bears placed Leonard Floyd on injured reserve Thursday morning, ending the second-year outside linebacker’s season following a knee injury suffered Sunday against the Detroit Lions. Floyd suffered an MCL and PCL injury and will have surgery in the next week, coach John Fox said, and the Bears do not have a timetable for his recovery yet. But that Floyd didn't suffer damage to his ACL is potentially good news for Floyd's recovery timetable. 

Still, with Floyd on injured reserve and out for the season, the Bears’ current outside linebacker depth chart consists of two veterans (Pernell McPhee and Sam Acho) and two practice squad signees (Isaiah Irving and Howard Jones). These final six games of the 2017 season could serve as auditions for all four players for roles on the 2018 Bears. 

If every team needs at least three good pass rushers, the Bears can count on Akiem Hicks and Floyd for 2018, provided Floyd comes back healthy. But who’s the third?

The Bears could save about $7.5 million in cap space if they release McPhee in 2018; if they were to cut ties with Willie Young, who’s on injured reserve right now as well, it would provide $4.5 million in cap relief. McPhee will be 29 in December, while Young will turn 33 next September. 

The Bears won’t necessarily need the cap relief next year, and could certainly decide to keep both players, who’ve shown they’re still productive when healthy. But even if both players are back, the Bears may need to add another outside linebacker via free agency of the draft — remember, the team could’ve began the season with Floyd, Young, McPhee, Acho and Lamarr Houston as their outside linebackers; an injury Houston suffered in the fourth preseason game ended his time in Chicago. 

Needs at wide receiver and cornerback are pressing, but outside linebacker may need to be in that same conversation. If the Bears have a top-10 pick for the fourth consecutive year, plus some cap space, they perhaps could have the ability to address all three needs in March and April. 

That may be looking a little too far into the future, though. The best-case for the Bears is McPhee finishes the season strong and Irving and/or Jones shows something in the opportunities they receive in these final six games (Jones, for what it’s worth, had five sacks as a rookie with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2015). But the worst-case — and perhaps the most realistic — is that the Bears go into the offseason needing to fill at least one pass-rushing spot.