Entering this year's Masters, you would have thought a story about inappropriate treatment of women would have involved Tiger Woods. You would have been wrong.
Following Charl Schwartzel's shocking win, the buzz in the sports media world quickly turned from celebration of the South African's unlikely victory to condemnation of Augusta National Golf Club's supposedly discriminatory policies. Tara Sullivan, a reporter for the Bergen Record, tweeted that she was barred from the Augusta clubhouse as she tried to get to an interview with Rory McIlroy.
Bad enough no women members at Augusta. But not allowing me to join writers in locker room interview is just wrong.
Twitter quickly exploded with followers and fellow journalists expressing their support and lambasting the golf club. Some took the incident as an opportunity to condemn Augusta's "antiquated" gender policies. As the story developed, it became clear that clubhouse ban was not a policy issue, but a misunderstanding by security. The Associated Press included that fact in their story.
Augusta National spokesman Steve Ethun said the guard acted improperly in stopping Sullivan, since club policy is to provide equal access to all reporters. The club has no female members, but several female reporters at the tournament confirmed they had made numerous trips to the locker room for interviews in the past without incident.
One media outlet didn't get the memo. SB Nation's golf blog was committed to a narrative that vilified the sexist, old-fashioned Augusta National, and they weren't about to let the facts interfere with their predetermined version of the story.
"Augusta National Golf Club Still Doesn't Allow Women In The Locker Room" screamed the headline.
The opening paragraphs readily reinforced "Augusta is sexist" stereotype.
By now, we all know Augusta National Golf Club likes its traditions and stays with rigid rules from the past. One such rule that's garnered major attention in the past is the private clubs refusal to admit women into their membership, causing some to slam the home course of The Masters for its chauvinistic ways.
But in the afterglow of Charl Schwartzel's final round charge to win The Masters, the rules of Augusta National took center-stage again, all after a reporter was barred from the locker room. Tara Sullivan, a reporter for The Bergen Record in New Jersey, was unable to join her fellow writers in the locker room for interviews after the final round of the 2011 Masters had concluded, all because of her gender.
Despite the fact that Augusta policy and tradition had nothing to do with Sullivan's exclusion, SB Nation was so eager play the blame game that they didn't bother to check their facts. Three paragraphs of the story mentioned Augusta's anitquated rule prohibiting women from the clubhouse. Unfortunately, that rule doesn't exist.
As a sidenote, Sullivan thanked her male counterparts
for providing transcripts of the interview she was not allowed to attend. Good to see journalists helping a comrade in trouble, even if she is a competitor.