Masters Chairman: Don't Want to Burden Augusta with Boycott over Voting Law

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVApril 7, 2021

AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 05: Fred Ridley, Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, walks on the range during a practice round prior to the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 05, 2021 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

While Major League Baseball made headlines when it moved its 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to Coors Field in Denver in response to Georgia's new controversial voting law, Augusta National and Masters chairman Fred Ridley said he did not want any boycotts surrounding this year's tournament in the state.

Bob Harig of ESPN shared some of the comments from Ridley, who replaced Billy Payne as Masters chairman in 2017:

"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 made the comments during Wednesday's pre-tournament news conference, and he did stress the importance of ensuring that everyone has the right and opportunity to vote in the United States:

"I believe and I am confident that every member of this club believes that voting is an essential fundamental right in our society and that—as I stated, that anything that disadvantages anyone to vote is wrong and should be addressed. I'm not going to speak to the specifics of the law, but I do know that ... I think there's a resolution, and I think that resolution is going to be based on people working together and talking and having constructive dialogue because that's the way our democratic society works. And while I know you would like for us to make a proclamation on this, I just don't think that is going to be helpful to ultimately reaching a resolution."

Ridley's comments come after the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) called on both the PGA Tour and Masters Tournament to move the event out of Georgia.

"Georgia's new law restricting voting access is designed to turn back the clock on civil rights, and return Black and poor and already disenfranchised voters in Georgia to second class citizens," NBJC executive director David J. Johns told Golfweek. "This is an unacceptable attack on our democracy and companies that operate in Georgia must speak out against this restrictive law."

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed the controversial law into place in March. Critics argue it restricts voting access disproportionately for people of color.

Daniel Dale and Dianne Gallagher of CNN provided more context, noting the law places limitations on drop boxes for absentee ballots, limits how long said boxes can remain open, gives state elections board the right to suspend county elections officials and makes providing food or drinks to those waiting in line to vote a misdemeanor for anyone who is not a poll officer.

It has sparked plenty of backlash, including criticism from President Joe Biden and civil rights groups, as well as multiple lawsuits challenging the law.

Harig noted Federal Election Commission records indicate Ridley donated money to Georgia Republican senate candidates David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler leading up to a Jan. 5 runoff elections that they both lost.