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KKK backs Augusta ban on women • Monday March 3, 2003

The Scotsman (Scotland), Mar. 3, 2003

A new controversy over racism and bigotry threatens to engulf the worlds biggest golf tournament as the Ku Klux Klan wades into the row over the exclusion of women from the club that hosts the US Masters.

A splinter group of Americas notorious white supremacist movement says the exclusive Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia has the right to pick whoever it wants as its members and plans to show its support for the club by demonstrating at next months event.

Campaigners against the clubs policy say the Klan and the Augusta administration deserve each other.

“Theyre making my points for me,” said Martha Burk , chair of the National Council of Womens Associations, which has made the Masters a cause clbre. “Its a telling development. Augusta is all about discrimination. With their policies, they cant expect not to attract the support of a group like this, whose own business is discrimination.”

The protest, if police allow it to go ahead, will be led by Joseph “JJ” Harper, who claims the title of Imperial Wizard of the American White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in Cordele, Georgia.

“This equal rights stuff has gotten out of hand. Were not concerned with whether Augusta wants us there or not. Were concerned with their right to choose who they want to choose as members,” he said.

Mr Harper says that up to 25 Klan members will be taking part, though they will not be wearing their trademark white robes and hoods. “Well probably be in either blue jeans or suits,” he said.

Mr Harpers involvement has caused new horror at a time when America is attempting to heal the wounds of its segregationist past.

Observers say Mr Harper has few supporters in the Augusta row. “Hes a small very small fish in a big sea of hatred,” said Joe Roy of the Southern Poverty Law Centre, which monitors race-hate groups.

Glenn Greenspan, spokesman for Augusta chairman Hootie Johnson, condemned the planned protest. “Anyone who knows anything about Augusta National Golf Club or its members knows this is not something the club would welcome or encourage,” he said.

“For our critics to try to capitalise on this sideshow is utterly reprehensible and has no place in any civilised discourse.”

His comments cut little ice with Ms Burk, however. “Its a very equivocal statement. They have failed to mention the KKK by name and they have failed to condemn them,” she said yesterday.

Ms Burk has led a high-profile campaign calling on a change of policy at Augusta and in December launched a “Hall of Hypocrisy” on the internet, naming and shaming American businesses that claim to support equal rights for women but whose senior management, she says, support discrimination through Augusta membership.

Mr Harper became involved in the Augusta dispute after hearing on the radio that black civil rights leader the Rev Jesse Jackson planned his own protest at the Masters against Augustas all-male policies. “We dont want Jesse Jackson in our state,” Mr Harper told the Atlanta Journal- Constitution.

Mr Jackson said he was disappointed but not surprised at the Klans involvement.

“Racial bigotry and gender apartheid always attracts the ultra-right ring. The country clubs position is creating a stand-off and it is polarising. This showdown encompasses all of that,” he said. “America and the South deserve better in 2003. In the end, they cannot win the battle, because they are wrong.”

Tiger Woods, the worlds top golfer who will seek a record third successive Masters title next month, reacted wearily to news of the Klans protest. Woods said: “If its not one thing its another.”

Meanwhile, Ms Burk said her group will seek permission to stage a demonstration.

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